Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, Tues 4 Mar
‘Hi Brian. I’m a monster’ says Jimmy Whiteaker’s Caliban to an audience member by way of introduction. Whiteaker is the sole performer in Company of Angels’ twin productions which retell the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I, Peaseblossom) and The Tempest (I, Caliban) from the point of view of two marginalised characters. It’s a clever conceit this, having the characters talk to the audience as if this were ‘An Audience with Caliban’, and it creates an informality that draws the audience in.
By mixing Shakespeare’s own words with modern day speech, playwright Tim Crouch has created a greatest hits approach; the audience enjoys picking out snippets of speeches and soliloquies they may recognise without the narrative becoming bogged-down with ‘thees’ and ‘thous’. It also allows for a subtle bathos, with Caliban declaiming high Shakespearean rhetoric in one sentence (‘Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises…’), before telling us that he misses his mum in the next.
Jimmy Whiteaker’s performance is a sprawl of limbs, owing as much to stand-up comedy – addressing the audience directly, brief forays into improvisational territory, flatfooted slapstick – as to any more sober acting tradition. There’s a looseness to his performance that prevents it from becoming simple recitation and suggests a genuine love of the stories he’s telling.
Although billed as theatre for children and young adults these plays stand in their own right, not just as retellings of Shakespeare’s works, but as examples of history from below, showing us how it feels to be confined to the periphery, on the outside looking in.
words DAVID GRIFFITHS photo MIKE KLEINSTEUBER
I, Peaseblossom /I, Caliban, Fri 7 Mar, 1.30pm (I, Caliban only) + 7.30pm, Sherman Cymru, Cardiff. Tickets: matinees £10/£8 conc/£5 under 25s + evening £15/£13 conc/£7.50 under 25s. Info: 029 2064 6900 / www.shermancymru.co.uk