Edinburgh review: The Price of Everything

Written for The Stage

The Price of Everything

The Price of Everything is a performance lecture written and delivered with typically deadpan charm by Daniel Bye. Capitalism dictates that society exists on a consumer model – just how much is art worth?

Bye tells us how much our body parts cost – our skin a mere £2, our bone marrow an astonishing £13.8 million – which is a tidy way to establish that monetary value is arbitrary.

He tells us about selling an air guitar on eBay for an extortionate amount of money. Sadly, this turns out to be untrue, something Bye plays with a lot. He revels in fiction’s ability to make points with a punch that reality can’t dream of. He deconstructs our propensity to disbelieve acts of compassion.

The Price of Everything doesn’t just attack the cuts on the arts, but capitalist individualism generally. In the face of Margaret Thatcher, Bye hands out free milk. In the face of selfishness, he tells the story of a chain of kindness that ends in a money-less utopia. It’s not true of course, but as Bye hands out a £20 note to one audience member and sets them a task, you can see he hopes one day it might be.

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Review – Much Ado About Nothing at St Stephen’s

In the cooling arches of the beautifully refurbished St Stephen’s in Hampstead a very gentile evening is taking place.  Antic Disposition’s production of Much Ado About Nothing may lack a raucous joie de vivre, but it is a very enjoyable, if slightly safe, evening. 

We are in the victorious year of 1945 and Don Pedro and his men have returned from fighting in the Second World War to find a society much changed in their absence.  Women have been working in roles other than that of wife and mother and the shift of power has subtly changed.  Into this framework Antic Disposition have successfully placed Shakespeare’s playful war of the sexes, Beatrice’s independence and Hero’s dutiful submission, Benedick’s acceptance of Beatrice as an equal and Don Pedro’s propensity to buy and sell women like objects, all sitting comfortably in this developing era.

Directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero utilise the elegant stone floored nave of St Stephen’s to polite effect with the red and white chequered audience tables framing the space and creating a pleasant intimacy of environment.  The sunlight dappled floor presents a very pretty stage and the action moves smoothly if a little reservedly.  Peppered with some gently smiling moments, this reserve for the most part stops these grins from ever developing into full throttle laughter and the comedy throughout is not always as prominent as it should be. Dogberry in particular has been directed in a very slow fashion making his usually hilarious scenes a little dampening.

Anouke Brook brings a centred strength and inherent sexiness to her barbed and husky Beatrice and as her sparring partner Ashley Cook is a very dapper and watchful Benedick, if lacking in a little merriment.  Bethany Minell twinkles prettily as the youthful and easily impressionable Hero, not an enviable part, and Chris Waplington turns in a very intelligent and dastardly Borachio.

Risebero’s design of delicate strings of lights and bunting which line the entrance and the white clothed, sunflower and orange filled, trestle table simply lend a gentle Southern French feel to the piece.  The sound has slight memories of The Last of the Summer Wine but although the recorded soundtrack jars a little, the cast choral singing moments are strong and fill the space impressively.

Lightly funny, gentle and pleasant, this is a restrained but highly affable night out.  If the echoes of Kenneth Branagh’s iconic 1993 film are a little strong it doesn’t really matter in a production which lightly prods at the war of the sexes and comes away leaving one, if not exactly completely satisfied, then definitely cordially warmed.

Runs at St Stephen’s Church, Hampstead until 19 July 2009

Review originally published online at http://thepublicreviews.blogspot.com/

You shall go to the ball!

I am going to a mask ball on Thursday as part of Antic Disposition’s production of Much Ado About Nothing showing at St Stephen’s in Hampstead.  Sadly it’s not a part of the show as per say and more an after show party darrrrrrling.  But before it sounds like I’m crowing it’s only because usually it’s not expected or really ‘good form’ for press to attend parties so I’m rather excited.  You should be at home squirreling away on your computer and what if you were spotted by an over enthusiastic performer who was desperate to see what you thought of the show.  There’s only so many deflecting responses that one can make because even if you liked it you don’t talk about it until the review is out in black and white with the artists – rule one apparently.

But here it is on the press invitation; ‘Followed by a MASKED PARTY – Masks compulsory’.  So Cinderella can finally go to the ball, and my fairy godmother in this godsend? – my compulsory mask.  A mask enables you to become someone else, and so a critic can become a paying member of the public and no enquiring eyes peering through their cut holes will be able to tell the difference.  Of course I will still have to get back to do the review pretty early in the evening, but one dance won’t hurt and this girl’s dancing shoes need a bit of a wiggle. So off to the ball I go, maybe I’ll see you there, but will you see me?