There’s always one, isn’t there? One moment, every Fringe, where the reviewer glances around the small, cramped, scruffy venue, looks back at what’s on stage and thinks: ‘how can I be seeing something this fantastic/bizarre/ground-breaking, in such a shoddy environment?’
Bob, from young production company Gin and Tonic, really is that good. Purporting to tell the long lost story of Shakespeare’s most ineffectual and dippy hero, it is an engaging mash-up of Macbeth, Hamlet, & Richard III, with plenty of excellent original material thrown in as well. Set across Finland and Sweden, a mass bio-degrading of IKEA’s new (bio-degradable) catalogues sparks panic, and sees the newly appointed, good natured Finnish president Siegfried ship furniture across the border – and unwittingly set into play the machinations of a deadly plot…
The idea is good – very good, though re-interpretations/modern love-ins of Shakespeare are nothing new at the Fringe. There’s great use of the rather cramped performance space, with a costume rail as a back stage divider, nice occasional breaking of the fourth wall and excellent incorporation of lines direct from Shakespeare, which sit seamlessly alongside the more modern script.
Whilst the execution is commendable, it is the acting that elevates Bob to a fantastic level. The cast are uniformly superb and committed to each of their (multiple) parts, to the extent that it feels almost unfair to single out performances. Putting that to one side, a number of actors shine especially bright – George Prove and Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller have wit and energy to spare. But Esmee Cook, as the conniving and ruthless Lady Bob, is the star of the show – luminous, magnetic, and completely immersed in the character. As with all the best villains, she’s very much the one you’re rooting for.