The Player's Advice to Shakespeare

Wed 30th July – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Ellen Smyth

at 08:48 on 4th Aug 2014

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It goes without saying that David Warburton is immensely talented. His timing, intensity and sharp delivery make for an impressive performance during which time seemed to fly by. The Player (Warburton) might think that all he can hear is the sound of his own breathing, but ironically Warburton appears not to breath at all. His performance is breathless, faultless and steady, his monologue so well ingrained into his character that its delivery seems effortless and natural. In truth, Warburton’s composure and ability to hold the attention and focus of the audience without respite from the spotlight is quite extraordinary. And it carries the play.

Set in 1607, the star of this one-man show abandons Shakespeare's company in support of the Midlands Revolt. The story follows the memories of this wayward rogue on his quest for justice and adventure. 'The Players Advice to Shakespeare' is an acquired taste. It is ambitious, if very indulgent to expect an audience to maintain interest in one person’s monologue (no matter how fascinating). The beginning of the story seems to amble along, and I think lost some of the audience. Considering that this is a theatre piece whose tagline is “More than just a rollicking tale, this is an impassioned plea for theatre with a sharp point”, I'm not sure it is sharp enough itself. As a result 'The Player's Advice to Shakespeare' finds itself on a rambling tale whilst the audience are left behind waiting for the action to start.

With the right audience, in the right frame of mind, The Player's Advice to Shakespeare could be hugely gratifying. In a school environment I think every student would vote in favour of history if it were being performed in short one-man acts by David Warburton. They would be much more memorable than reading the text, and he succeeded in bringing what might be a dull, dry text to life.

It is quite a feat of story-telling to create an hour and a half long plot in the imagination of the audience. The set is basic too: just a simple wooden chair and table. And of course, a carrot which becomes whip, a tankard, a sword and a quill. In fact, the carrot proves to be quite the versatile prop - but mostly it's all about David Warburton.

The struggles, the triumphs, the revolts and the casualties were all there during the second half of the show. It just took a little too long to come into its own.

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Georgina Wilson

at 01:19 on 5th Aug 2014

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With a shock of white hair, a linen shirt and threadbare breeches, David Warburton gives me everything I want from a Shakespearean actor. He even quotes that bit from Hamlet about acting, meaning that all the Renaissance drama know-it-alls in the audience are instantly on his side in gratification for the smug points they get from noting the reference. The problem is that David Warburton isn’t a Shakespearean actor– or rather, he isn’t a Shakespearean character. He’s a player in the King’s Men, the acting company of the famous playwright himself, and he’s trying to do something much harder than add to the already huge pool of interpretations Hamlet or any of the other (in)famous heroes.

What precisely this different agenda is, I’m not sure I could tell you – and it’s here that the production falls down. Whilst Warburton’s acting is undoubtedly surperb, particularly when deploying what we might term his “pretentious ponce” mode for Richard Burbage or a town-crier – the length of the script and the autobiographical events he describes fail to absolutely encapsulate our attention.

Warburton’s journey north is centred around an uprising in Warwickshire, and is mainly of historical interest.

Whilst the character remains likeable, describing his “most commanding voice – my Henry Five voice, as we call it in the company” and successfully raising a chuckle from the audience, his persona is just a little too far removed to wholly engross us in his turmoils.

The singularity of the sound effects – a man screeching at various volumes and for various amounts of time – brings home the minimalism of the set: a carrot, a table and a seat. Warburton uses all three to great effect, but his real talent lies in his facial expressions and convincing body language.

Unusually for an artsy Fringe production, my preference would have been to hammer up the metatheatre. At the end Warburton begins to say some truly thought-provoking things about the concept of “Shakespeare”, and the potential of his plays, but I would have liked more of this and earlier. That’s the sum total of this reviewer’s thoughts: “the rest is….”. And if you enjoyed that reference, go and see the show for your very own dose of intellectual smugness.

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