Dr Marigold and Mr Chops, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Review


Monologues are notoriously difficult to do well. Their reliance on a single individual to keep an audience engaged for the duration of a show is a huge test of a performer’s skill and acting ability. However, Simon Callow is no stranger to the one-man play. A return to familiar territory following his somewhat controversial Fringe performance, Dr Marigold and Mr Chops illustrates once again that Callow is a master storyteller.

A play of two stories: the first is a tale of a dwarf by the name of Mr Chops, whose luck with the lottery provides him with the place in society he has so desperately craved; the second is of a travelling salesman named Dr Marigold, who adopts a little deaf and dumb girl.

First to strike the eye is a stunning set that is decadent yet derelict, with long, red, velvet curtains draped behind tables of cobwebbed trinkets. Amongst the bric-a-brac, Callow takes to the stage and at once has the audience enraptured. Dickens is often criticised for the long-windedness of his writing, yet Callow manages to deliver the text with a universal accessibility that is immediately apparent.

The tales themselves are interesting in the way they point to injustices in society that are equally applicable today. Mr Chops is powerful in the way it illustrates the exploitation of celebrity, where a person can still be used and discarded when they are no longer beneficial to others. It focuses on how one’s place in society doesn’t naturally entail one’s overall happiness; a factor which Mr Chops only realises when it is too late.

Dr Marigold, on the other hand, is remarkable in the way it is delivered through sales talk, with a narrative explained by deals and exchanges. Once again, this is a story which has an emphasis on society, this time looking at a disabled person’s place within it.

What Dr Marigold and Mr Chops iterates is heartwarming stories with an underlying poignancy that can teach us a lot about our own lives. Whilst not perfect, this is a brilliant way to ease oneself into the world of Dickens.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Nov 8th 2011.

Richard III, King’sTheatre, Edinburgh: Review


Edward Hall’s all-male Shakespeare company, Propeller, have created an engaging production of Richard III, that whilst not conventional, provides a certain alternative spin on the historical classic. Performed in conjunction with The Comedy of Errors, the two plays, although irrevocably contrasted, contain unquestionable similarities. Shakespeare’s histories, often revered as Tudor propaganda, present a means for the bard to explore the British monarchy, although he was somewhat biased due to the restraints placed by his position under the reign of Elizabeth I.

The culmination of his account of the War of the Roses, which he began in Henry VIRichard III illustrates the outcome of the war. It also portrays Richard’s character from his rise to power and subsequent demise and acts as a document examining the collapse of the medieval world.

A difficult play to bring alive on stage due to its constant transition between various settings, Michael Pavelka creates a dystopic vision of a hospital-come-abbatoire that uses medical screens and thick plastic curtains as partitions to transform and effortlessly piece together one scene to the next. Written in a blank verse that comes across as both formal, yet patterned, Richard III portrays its dark subject material with such unequivocal wit that it allows Hall to explore the truisms of its comedy.

Hall does away with Shakespeare’s avoidance of physical violence by accentuating the deaths within the play to the extent that it appears almost reminiscent of a Tarantino film. Whilst the lavishly drawn out scenes of murders involving chainsaws and splattered innards are undeniably entertaining,they cause a detraction in the portend of those moments that require sincerity.

A masked chorus separating the scenes by satirical close harmony pieces arranged by Jon Trenchard creates a chilling juxtaposition of frivolous singing against scenes of a disturbing and sinister nature. A rather slow first half, it comes together in the latter stages where Clothier’s portrayal is truly realised as a compelling exposition of the cruel violence of Richard and the lengths he will go to achieve his goal. As he reaches his summit, the rapid unfurling of his power that culminates in his defeat by Richmond (Richard Hand) clothed from head to toe in white is truly compelling.

Hall’s production is an endearing representation, however, its crass style make it come across as more of an excessive romp than a faithful representation of a Shakespearian history.

Taken from The Journal, published online Sat Apr 23rd 2011.