Sunday 18 June 2017

Best laid plans… I Know You of Old, Golem Theatre company, Hope Theatre

What is so striking about David Fair’s clever recasting of Much Ado… is that it’s more of a re-mix than an extrapolation along the lines of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Whilst those two characters had endless new words to say, Fairs has used only cuts from Shakespeare’s own text which, having not been aware before the production, is quite a feat.

Also, whilst Hamlet’s college buddies had no way of escaping their fate – the clue being in the title… the characters here are not guaranteed anything: a broader existential crisis than the doomed Danes faced. I Know You of Old is therefore, Much Ado About Something with hints of themes from other plays including King Lear… “thou, nature, are my goddess” but that could be just Bill?

Conor O'Kane
Fair’s idea follows the main line of the original play but there’s a twist that I can’t really reveal… The story starts after Hero has died and is lying in a coffin in the chapel and, not that far from the audience. The fact that Benedick and Beatrice’s verbal battles take place over Hero’s coffin immediately adds a new context especially as Claudio is, naturally, broken hearted and subsumed in the depths of his guilt.

Cleverly we have a flashback to the moment when Claudio denounces Hero at their wedding via Benedick’s iPhone which plays back the moments right up to her death but even if you haven’t seen the source play, the performances convey the meaning which again is to be praised, not just the acting but also Fair’s editing.

David Fairs
Fair plays the determined batchelor Benedick as a man with a high opinion of his own wit who has the words to back his confidence up. He’s cool in a leather jacket and shades although his taste in music leaves a lot to be desired. Against him is the ferocious Beatrice played by Sarah Lambie with an elegance that belies the potency of her temper and the ability to convey so much bile with so few words.

Almost cowering between these two is Claudio as played by Conor O'Kane who is never entirely distracted from his grief by the pull of his friends’ personalities and, in an effort to derive something positive from the tragedy, attempts to trick the two to fall in love…

Ah, we know where this is going… or do we?

Sarah Lambie
It’s a very smart script and the three performers are all outstanding: O’Kane as the broken man desperate to atone for the fatal error of his pride covers the emotional ground with exhausted ease while Fairs takes Benedick’s arrogance into tragic new directions, his confidence disolving before our eyes. Sarah Lambie is a class act who covers the comedy as convincingly as the drama and I’m still smiling at the kittenish drop of Beatrice’s hair as she starts the uncomfortable process of flirting with the man she loved to hate! 

Director Anna Marsland desrves high praise for pacing the narrative with such finesse - she uses the space and the players so well, there's a constant flow of motion and emotion leaving the watching audience immersed in the passion play. Guys, you could easily have taken a second bow!

One’s to watch and another superb production at this pearl of a venue!

I Know You of Old runs until the 1st of July and it’s definitely one to catch because nothing can be taken for granted in matters of love, war and text in spite of the adage… Tickets are available from the Hope Theatre box office and online, I'd urge you to book now to avoid disappointment!

There's also a facinating interview with David and Anna in which they discuss the play and Golem Theatre company's aims at Culture by Night.

Ithankyou rating: ****

David Fairs and Sarah Lambie on location promotion

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