John Nicholson and Le Navet Bete
Le Navet Bete Theatre company
Theatr Clwyd, Mold
March 1-5, 2022; Ihr 40min
One for all or one for none? This is an ambitious project to undertake, condensing a 700 page epic into a 100 minute comedy taking in 40 characters, 50 outfits and 112 costume changes.
There is much to admire in writer John Nicholson's production, with many moments to make one chuckle, and excellent comic timing.
The cast - Dan Bianchi, Nick Bunt, Al Dunn and Matt Freeman - have great comic repartee, relating to each other in a trusting, familiar way, making good use of an imaginative set and demonstrating clever movement and fast dialogue.
All the actors give their all in a fast-paced, energetic presentation and while mistakes were made, the four were quick to turn these into comedy.
They are ably supported especially by Fi Russell, who is quietly efficient as she facilitates the many onstage costume changes - so much so deserves her curtain call with the main cast.
It is also good to see plenty of audience interaction: I particularly enjoyed the panto-style throwing of soft-toy ducks on stage - silly but fun.
But for me there is also something missing. We are promised "hilarious, physical and totally accessible comedy theatre using creative and engaging storytelling for absolutely everyone (ages 4-104!)". Marketing hyperbole, of course, for this production falls between two stools: not quite pure comedy, not quite the retelling of a saga. Do these different aspirations mix at all? It seemed that in telling the story at length and accurately - something to be applauded - it became more difficult to carry the comedy. Plenty of comic antics take place, but they don't always induce the audience's laughter.
Would I go and see another production by the same company? Of course; in many respects this production is excellent; I'd have simply preferred to see a bit more judicious editing to help it to really set light to the theatre.
Tickets and information here