Mardling The Bard

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Henderson's Vegetarian Restaurant, Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)


Henderson's Vegetarian Restaurant, Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival Fringe)

Edinburgh in August attracts performers from all over the world, with the free and easy atmosphere encouraging every sort of artistic experiment. So perhaps it was not too surprising to find Spin Off Theatre there, at Henderson's Vegetarian Restaurant, in Hanover Street.

A tiny space, organic scones with bramble jelly and a cosmopolitan audience were just right for a daring reduced version of Twelfth Night. Shakespeare called for quite a large cast, but Eve Stebbing and Daniel Amis took all the parts that really matter, creating a seashore or a palace with a gesture or a couple of words and even adding to the poetry with a few chords on the concertina.

That was not all either. After teaching how to respond to each improbable turn in the plot with a chorus of “Cor!” and even the occasional “Blast!”, they transported the tale to Norfolk, weaving in the folklore and giving the original's language a particular taste with a bit of local dialect. In a play that really is all about transformations, the two players change character in a trice before our very eyes. Eve only had to twist her hair back and put it up to disguise herself completely. The sturdy sea captain at the outset, Daniel became not only the lovelorn prince but also the stern lady he yearned for. Both performers enjoyed Sir Toby's tipple and his terrible jokes before we glimpse Malvolio with his garters duly crossed.

This was a cheeky show, of course, that cleverly retained the freshness of improvisation while in fact professionally developed and presented. Though mardled, Shakespeare was not mangled. He could still make his point, while some of his finest lyrics, though sung only in snatches, survived to work their true magic.

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