In Pursuit of Cardenio, Underbelly
The legendary Ken Campbell tackles the legendary William Shakespeare, what can possibly go wrong? Read on, if you dare!
I had misgivings from the start but the show began strongly, with Ken outlining the differences between "soft" improvisation of the "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" variety and the "hard" improvisation we were going to see tonight. This would be improvisation without the gimmicks and flighty-ness as he and his troupe attempted to improvise the "lost" Shakespeare play Cardenio. Each of the improvisers was given an object from the audience and began to improvise around it in iambic pentameter while the audience went among them to observe. This was fascinating and I began to put my previous dislike of improvisation aside and braced myself for a rigorously stimulating evening.
Unfortunately we were then treated to 50 minutes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" with a Shakespearean twist. No attempt to move on from (apparently) 7 previous "episodes" of Cardenio, no attempt to even make a coherent narrative, just - as always with comedic improvisation - arsing about for the delight of their fellow performers and friends in the audience.
A show with potential, and some of it was amusing, but being promised a different kind of improvisation and getting basically, the same old schtick was very disappointing. As the sainted TOM once said "..but what's it FOR?" If performing in general is basically showing off, then comedic improvisation is the two-year-old proudly showing you a freshly produced turd.
JTD : A couple of excellent performers really hitting their stride (Kelly and Adam)....
NTW : ....being overshadowed by a typically "look at me" old hand (Josh)
And now, an unbecoming, unpleasant, probably hypocritical and unjustified rant.
The sinking feeling in my stomach came while waiting to go into the venue when I spotted a contingent of middle-aged suburban bohemians also going in. These are the people who make the fringe unbearable at times for me. You know the type, all M&S cardigans, various bits of fabric tying their hair into a constructed bird's nest and applying make up more and more liberally with each passing year to end up resembling a cross between Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally and Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. As Scotland The What once put it "Talk about mutton dressed as mock chop."
They sit in shows and bray at their friends about what they've seen and the last time they were in a venue this dark and dingy (indicating how few fringe shows they have actually seen) and delight at their digs being in "Spittal Street".
Made worse, of course, by their having friends among the cast (the most smug and self-satisfied members of the cast, of course) who then proceed to perform for them and elicit hilarious shreiks of laughter at every semi-funny gag.
If I had the oft-mentioned extra horn in my car I would be sounding it now.