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Russell Kane's Fakespeare: The Tragikal Saveings of King Nigel - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Gadzooks! The idea ‘tis as obvious as Alan Carr’s sexuality – yet no one has had the wherewithal to do it before. Restaging Shakespeare for modern times is a staple of theatre – but writing a gag-heavy comedy, from scratch, in his style, seems to be something new.

It might seem a formidable task, but stand-up Russell Kane rises to the challenge of being the new bard of Enfield with aplomb, even if the idea can’t run to a full hour – especially when a credit-crunched cast of just two limits the scope for variety and complexity.

Speaking of the recession, that’s Kane’s impetus for The Tragikal Saveings Of King Nigel; the story of a ruined City banker contemplating suicide as a more noble end than shopping at Lidl. If Shakespeare were writing today, as the cliché goes, this is surely the sort of subject he would be soliloquising about.

Though a capitalist, Nigellio, does have at least one scruple left; and the dilemma the troubled anti-hero faces is whether to abandon that final moral to start investing in landmines in Sudan to reverse his fortunes. The other option is ‘self-toppage’ with the noose around his neck. To talk him through the dilemma is his mistress/secretary, Donna Of Billericay, played by Kane’s real-life partner, Sadie Hasler, a sweet, simple but plain-talking foil.

In his class-conscious chip-on-his-shoulder stand-up persona, Kane would most likely condemn the idea of an updated take on Shakespeare as pretentious, especially if performed by middle-class actors. But if there’s potential for that, he niftily sidesteps it by not taking the endeavour too seriously, even if he does take great pride in using fancy words.

The punchlines may come in pentameter, but their targets are familiar: Jade Goody, Jordan, Michael Barrymore, Stephen Hawking, the ginger one from Girls’ Aloud. Yet the eloquence of dishing out the bad-taste gags in blank verse goes a long way, giving them more impact than any straightforward telling.

In his Fakespearean writing, Kane favours the simile as the best way of delivering these Heat-seeking jokes, and some are beautifully constructed, though the device is diminished by overuse. So when he varies the style - such as the playful sarcasm that pops up towards the end, it’s very welcome.

But the show is rather hampered by Edinburgh’s 60-minute convention: a half-hour version would compact the funnies to much better effect.

Review date: 7 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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