(T)INY (P)LATFORM (S)HAKESPEARE
The Cloud Nine Collective
Fort Worth Fringe Festival
Director: Felicia Bertch
Assistant Director/Costume Design: Alexandria Fazzari
Set Design: Anson Norwood, DJ Badon, Felicia Bertch
Reviewed Performance: 9/8/2018
Reviewed by Stacey Upton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
It doesn’t matter if you like Shakespeare or not, you’re going to enjoy this mashup of some of the better-known Shakespearean plays. Performed by an accomplished group of UT Arlington grads, this playful romp bends genders, pokes fun at, and illuminates the source material in 25 minutes full of laughter. These performers perform Shakespeare well, and one gets the sense that Will would have approved. After all, we groundlings in the audience had fun, laughed a lot, and didn’t throw any rotten fruit. It’s a great sampler platter of Shakespeare, and the fun twist of putting it on a tiny stage works well.
The mashup of Shakespeare’s plays includes bits of “Henry V”, a good chunk of the funny and popular “Twelfth Night”, some “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a delightful take on the famous balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet”, along with a smattering of goodly deaths by poison and even some Rap Shakespeare. You want to see it now, don’t you?
The group moved beyond just “making merry” with Shakespeare. They understand the Bard and his intention behind each scene performed. This may be clowning, but it’s informed clowning, and has the result of conveying the scenes extremely well. Normally in a Shakespeare play there is a gap in understanding as your ear adjusts to the iambic pentameter and archaic word usage. That wasn’t the case here, so clearly do these performers understand the language and their characters. Their snippet versions of Twelfth Night and done-to-death Romeo and Juliet were more illuminating and certainly more entertaining than many “straight” versions of these plays. These actors know their stuff and deliver with vim and vigor.
The performers all wear black with white neck ruffs and share a literal “tiny stage” for the duration of the piece. They have a great time and work well together. Every actor, even when not the focus of the scene, is part of it, reacting to it, or being of service to the scene’s creation. Sometimes the actors are called to be a piece of furniture, or a wall (nice nod to “Wall” in Midsummer Night’s Dream here). Sometimes they are characters in the actual play, or supernumeraries commenting with adroit eye rolls or grimaces. They bend their bodies, entwine them, and become whatever is required, while remaining balanced on a platform that really is tiny - 4x6 feet. You can tell these are actors that have been trained using physical theatre techniques and it pays off in this delightful bare-bones production.
The Fort Worth Fringe Festival, now in its third season and finding its stride, made a good pick with this ensemble. Giving them a platform (even tho’ tiny) to show off this jubilant take on Shakespeare did two important things. First it gave a welcome break to some of the heavier offerings this Festival showcased, a palate refresher if you will. More importantly it allowed this terrific idea some bandwidth to a wider audience that it richly deserves. Hopefully this fine company of actors will find more venues to perform in with this piece. It would be particularly welcome in school settings, giving the kids there a first taste of Shakespeare with “honey-sweet” words and the “perfumed breath” of energetic, seasoned performers who know how to invoke laughter and convey the true meaning of words penned over four hundred years ago – all from a tiny platform.