Shakespeare has been at the Edinburgh Fringe from the beginning, with the Christine Orr Players of Edinburgh’s Macbeth one of the eight productions in the first festival in 1947. It’s not surprising to see that the Bard is still a staple: a search for his name in this year’s programme brings up no less than 71 results, and that's just the ones where his name is part of the show's title.
What is surprising, perhaps, is 2015 being the first year that Shakespeare’s Globe is joining the crowd. It’s not quite the Bard they’re bringing, though: instead, this is Shakespeare Untold.
This is Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of the Party Planner and Titus Andronicus from the Piemaker, with writers Harper Ray and Adam Sibbald asking what happens when you shift the lens on these famous plays.
“Knowing a play, people can have preconceptions,” Ray tells me on choosing to tell these untold stories. “Even not knowing the play can be intimidating. New work levels the playing field.”
Of course, Shakespeare remains at the heart of the work. “The themes and emotions of Shakespeare’s plays are very real for each of us,” he says. Through re-examination, these themes become open and exciting to a whole new family audience. “A new character meant we could hear the story from a different perspective. They talk to the audience as friends, including and exciting them while staying true.”
Titus Andronicus, concedes Ray, is “not necessarily the obvious choice” for re-examination or for children’s theatre. But then, perhaps that’s exactly why it should be chosen. “People baked in a pie?” he says. “Classic fairy story fare.”
“It doesn’t matter if you know either of the plays. These are stand-alone works that assume nothing. The characters tell you a complete story: their own story. It just so happens that their story reveals the key moments, characters, themes and even language of Shakespeare’s play."
Titus Andronicus is a popular pick of this year’s festival, with productions by Cambridge Shakespeare Collective, Tripped Theatre, China’s WeAct, and Smooth Faced Gentlemen’s all-female cast. And, of course, Romeo and Juliet gets a look in as ever: with N6 Productions, the American High School Theatre Festival’s Latino take, and Captive Theatre at the Spiegeltent.
And although this may be the Globe’s first time to the Edinburgh Fringe, it’s hardly Ray’s. “I love the Fringe and have been coming since my days as a student,” he says. “It’s obviously a great honour for Adam Sibbald and myself to be charged with co-creating the Globe’s debut.”pro
The festival, he says, “gives the Globe a chance to connect with completely new audiences: those who arrive in unimaginable numbers to be part of the most exciting arts event in the world. Shakespeare Untold couldn’t have hoped for a better first outing than this.”