Last Life: A Shakespeare Play, performed at Greenside@Infirmary Street, is a collaborative production of two New York based theatre companies, The Box Collective and Piece of Yourself who make their debut at the Fringe. Written and directed by Sara Fay George, this intimate story of an unnamed relationship, has its UK premiere at the festival.
The play is a collage of Shakespeare’s quotes from tragedies, comedies and sonnets – scattered, taken out of their contexts, intermingled and incorporated in one another. They compose a story of a relationship and its different stages – safe to say, any relationship as effusions, fascinations, flirtations, desires, jealousies, pains, frustrations and resentments are universal and thus, relatable for everyone.
However, in this case, gender dynamics plays a particularly crucial role, therefore Last Life is envisioned by a heterosexual couple comprised of two actors, Esther Sophia Artner and Mikaal Bates. Their Shakespeare, refreshingly different and performed with an American accent, materializes on stage not only through words and quotes but also through their eyes, expressions and remarkably ductile bodies. They deliver a genuine, sensual, carnal experience, on the borderline of theatre, music and dance. They are accompanied by Khadija Sallet, in the role of Goddess Kismet. Symbolism embodied by her character is a little portentous, however, her diva, powerful yet incredibly natural, effortless, mesmerizing voice makes this show a must-see.
The alternative composition of Shakespearean lines unclothes an unknown face of the bard, twists some meanings or perhaps only unearths them, for example when the infamous, controversial final soliloquy of Taming of the Shrew is put into the man’s mouth. To the audience’s astonishment (‘Is this all really Shakespeare?!’), the bard turns out sensual, erotic, electrifying, feminist, universal and relatable. His words accurately depict the struggles of each gender as well as the vulnerability of a man and strength of a woman.
However, it is a show not only for Shakespeare’s fans although they should have some extra fun catching all the references and quotes. It is mostly a show about emotions, envisioned by wavering bodies of the actors. A small room blurs the distance between the stage and the audience, creating an ambience of intimacy to which everyone is invited. However, its valid and universal message deserves better. A bigger stage and more subtle lighting would make it more dynamic and reach out to a bigger audience. Go see it and spread the word.
Main Image c. azumi OE