August 11, 2006

Edinburgh Fringe: 101 ways to massacre Shakespeare

By Paul Majendie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Bouncy Castle Hamlet, Macbeth with a
Sinatra soundtrack, Shakespeare for Breakfast with free coffee
and croissants.

The Edinburgh Fringe richly deserves its reputation for
artistic anarchy and every year The Bard is the target of
bizarre adaptations at the world's largest arts festival.

"It is amazing how robust he is. I have seen it survive
some awful treatments and still come out as a damn good story,"
said Fringe Director Paul Gudgin.

"It is extraordinary how Shakespeare gets singled out. Why
don't we get Charles Dickens' Great Expectations at the OK

Pressed to pick his all-time favorite production he went
for "A Midsummer Night's disco -- Shakespeare on roller

As The Fringe celebrates its 60th birthday, the prize for
zaniest 2006 production goes to Hamlet set in a bouncy castle.

To see the Prince of Denmark in laddered tights bounding
around declaiming "To Be or Not To Be" is a truly surreal

Surely this would have Shakespeare turning in his grave on
the 400th anniversary of his death?

Not at all says the play's director William Seaward. "I
think Shakespeare had a sense of humor. He might not have
approved, but I think we could have talked him round."


Seward had his eureka moment when attending a children's
birthday party in Argentina. "I saw the children playing on a
bouncy castle and that is when the idea came to me.

"It was insanely difficult finding actors. We kept all our
mistakes in as everyone finds them hilarious."

At the other end of the professional spectrum, actor Bruce
Morrison pulls off an elegant tour de force with his one-man
show "Shakespeare's Passions," recreating famous speeches with
just a basket full of props.

"Anything goes -- that is the joy of the Fringe," he said.
"We had two Japanese couples in here smooching in my Romeo and
Juliet speech. In this century, Shakespeare is still
excruciatingly exciting for so many people."

The Fringe offers an endless variety that could be
collectively labeled "101 Ways to Murder The Bard."

"Macbeth -- That Old Black Magic" boasts a Frank Sinatra
soundtrack and you can see "The Tempest" with acrobats, puppets
and circus tricks.

In "Corleone: The Godfather," the American High School
Theater Festival troupe asks "What if Shakespeare had written
the Godfather?"

Theater critics may suffer but Joyce McMillan of The
Scotsman cheerfully accepts the challenge.

"It is very hit and miss but, with colors flying, The Bard
survives at The Fringe and some people who have been
traumatized at school do like to see him being taken down a