Some things seem as traditional to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as being bombarded with flyers on the Royal Mile. For me, this production is one of them. This is no-holds-barred ecstasy in Shakespearean guise, and with a different culprit every night you can always come back for more.
If you haven’t found yourself shaking with laughter thanks to the Magnificent Bastard theatre company this August, were you even here?
The premise is delightfully straightforward: every night, five classically trained actors take to the stage for an abridged performance of Romeo and Juliet, with one crucial difference: one of these performers is raucously, outrageously sozzled. To say it creates a diversion is, of course, somewhat of an understatement. Ad-libs fly, as well as several props and items of clothing, whilst passionate fans of iambic pentameter should look away as famous idioms are magnificently bent out of shape.
Tonight it was Romeo’s turn and my goodness, did we know it. Richard Hughes set about his task of disrupting the famous conflict between Montague and Capulet with dogged determination, and we almost had an incestuous affair on our hands as he seemed much more interested in Leanna Wigginton’s gender-swapped Benvolia instead.
All is kept in check by director and creator Lewis Ironside, who emerges in appropriately spangly leggings when things appear to be getting out of hand – which tonight seems to be all of the time. The joy and bane of this show is its unpredictability: one such highlight was the entirely spontaneous circumstance where Hughes simply refused to emerge from under a bed, leaving Briony Rawle’s Juliet and Robbie Capaldi’s Lord Capulet to desperately improvise a scene whilst their clothes and possessions literally disappeared around them.
Indeed, it is the ability of the more sober cast members to both keep a straight face and ad-lib coherently Elizabethan verse over the mayhem erupting onstage that makes this a truly spectacular sight to behold. I have no idea how they do it, as there wasn’t a soul in the audience who wasn’t in stitches from start to finish.
If you haven’t found yourself shaking with laughter thanks to the Magnificent Bastard theatre company this August, were you even here? A bucket-list show for anyone who loves the madness that is the world of theatre.