A Midsummer Night’s Whatever REVIEW by Geoff Lawrence
You know you are in safe hands with EDGE Improv, particularly when the cast includes Anne Pensalfini (“legendary shakespearean actor, teacher and improvisor”), who is also staring in a second show during the Anywhere Festival (I Stand Here Ironing). Anne is joined by Brad Daniels and Marc Buckingham (previously seen in the successful 2017 Anywhere Festival Hard-Boiled dick show), with music by David Peachey.
The Junction Hotel at Annerley, a fairly typical Brisbane pub, is a great choice of location: food and drinks on tap, and a wood-panelled room as to establish a suitably Elizabethan mood. All we really needed was a little sawdust on the floor and we could have been in the Globe Theatre, thanks to the welcome by musician, David Peachy, dressed in suitably Elizabethan garb.
Of course, the excitement mounts once the three players join us, announcing that a new folio of Shakespeare’s works have been found. We are the first to see one of these 6 new plays, as each is to be performed for the first time (one a night, during the 2018 Anywhere Theatre Festival). As improv, the audience play a key role in providing information to inspire the cast. On 20th May, The Merchant Of Venice (“it’s about ordinary people”), As You Like It (“the seven ages of man speech”), and ordinary activities (“bought charcoal at Bunnings”). Oh, and “plum.”
Coincidentally, the play we then saw was The Merchant of Bunnings, subtitled As You Like Charcoal—a 40-minute, 4-act love story.
Yes, the language and characters were Shakespearean (sort-of), and you can play ‘spot the reference’ if you are up-to-date with the works of Shakespeare. But this is not an evening where you have to know very much about Shakespeare or his plays. This play is new to everyone after all.
As is often the case with this type of improvised theatre there were some moments of hesitation (or ‘pauses for theatrical effect, as I am sure those in the profession might say). But the performance moved quickly on, and became funnier by the 3rd and 4th acts. My highlight was the serious delivery of “The Seven Ages Of Charcoal.” Quite why Shakespeare ever replaced it with The Seven Ages of Man I don’t know. If you ever get a chance to hear about the seven stages—from The Growth Of The Sapling to The Second Burning on the BBQ, then it’s worth the trip to Alderley (or Stratford-Upon-Avon).
Sunday night’s can be difficult to attract larger audiences, but the intimate crowd really enjoyed the show. The new folio deserves a larger audience.
But be warned, the play I saw may (or probably will) not be what is on the next night. As for reviews, the Bard best sums it up: “Let every eye negotiate for itself and trust no agent.”
Verdict: Worth a visit.
Audience tip: The Library Room is upstairs in The Junction Hotel. Audience members are welcome to take food and drink purchased at the bar into The Library Room.
The reviewer/photographer saw the Sunday 20th May performance.
The show has six performances during the Anywhere Theatre Festival (13th-15th May, and 20th-22nd May). The final two shows are on 21st and 22nd May (7:30pm). Tickets are available via the Anywhere Theatre Festival website. $12.