I thoroughly enjoyed the Swindon Fringe, I really did. It was a dizzying whirligig of the imaginative, inventive and avant garde. However, by the end of it, I was thirsting for some Legitimate Theatre, to have my palate cleansed by immersing myself in some of the unadulterated Classics.
So imagine my joy when I discovered that the world renowned Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (est. 2005 by Sir Kev F. Sutherland OBE) would be sweeping into Swindon with their latest elucidation of the Bard of Avon’s work and on the Eve of his birthday, no less. From memory this is the first visit from one of the truly leading Shakespearean companies to our fair town since the RCBC (The Royal Chuckle Brothers Company) brought us their Timon of Athens in 1994.
A small but select audience were gathered at the Art Centre for this Royal Command Performance (no actual Royals could make it, but Princess Michael of Kent sent her apologies) and Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre didn’t disappoint. We were treated to two-handed excerpts from Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, Coriolanus and even a short improvised outing for that lost play “King Arthur” (as suggested by an audience member whose knowledge of the Bard’s oeuvre appeared somewhat lacking in certain areas).
There were also musical interludes. We were treated to an exploration of the gender fluidity in Shakespeare’s work to the tune of Blur’s 1994 dance floor-filling classic ‘Girls and Boys’ and we were also presented with a minute-long musical precis of the plot of Othello made to the melody of Abba’s 1977 chart-topper ‘Thank You For the Music’.
But the highlight and rightful finale of the show was an abridged interpretation of ‘The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.’ I can honestly say it was the best production of the play that I’ve ever seen performed by two grey-flannel sock puppets in the Scottish Falsetto style, trumping even Sir Ralph Richardson’s rendering at the Glasgow Empire in 1964.
At the end Sir Kev F. Sutherland OBE himself came out from the tartan marquee stage and took a bow (the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets didn’t accompany him, presumably not wanting to hog his spotlight) and the audience rose as one to applaud him.
Culture. That’s all I ask for in this Town of ours: a little bit of culture.
This has admittedly been a very silly review. But then the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets was a gloriously silly endeavour filled with daft puns, inexplicable prop juggling and costume changes (how many hands has the man got?!?) and an inexhaustible manic energy worthy of the Marx Brothers. It’s one of the best two-sock/one-man shows that you’ll see.
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets do Shakespeare tours until May. They will be appearing at The Subscription Rooms, Stroud on 27th April.