players adviceConsidering they had to do a quick change of venue last minute, the cast of The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare still gave a good show, not fazed by the new surroundings. Playwright Brian K Stewart offers up some enjoyable new writing, with a strong historical and political bent, if not a little too overlong for it to be truly engaging throughout.

Actor David Warburton should really be commended on his one-man performance, playing one of Shakespeare’s actors, who leaves his company to take part in the Midlands uprising. Now faced with execution, he recounts his story to the audience he has been so used to entertaining in the round. Warburton shakes onto stage, and his performance is completely compelling. Using just the tables in his cell and his measly meal in its wooden bowl as his props, he takes the stage with full authority. The table becomes a carriage, a ditch or a part of the Globe theatre, and Warburton does it so simply that the audience are taken in completely. His final scene is touching, and invites some real sympathy towards his character, now an old man broken by his sense of rebellion.

The title is somewhat misleading: although the comparisons between the Midlands uprising and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus are made toward the end of the play, the Bard himself is for the most part absent in the narrative. Instead, the play’s focus is far more political than expected. It’s a fine story, and has an excellent scene on the dispelling of the rebellion with extreme violence. The only problem with the script is its length. In the Fringe setting where most plays are less than an hour long, this clocks in at 90 minutes. A shorter run-time might have been more gripping. Instead, the play had a lull in the middle and did not benefit from being half an hour longer than its rival theatrical pieces. It loses the interest of the audience for a while, and whilst the interest is more than re-gained by the end of the action, the narrative could definitely be more engaging if it were half an hour shorter.

If you’re in the mood for a historical and political exploration of personal duty, this is a nice narrative with an excellent dramatic performance. It dips a little in the middle, but the ending is worth hanging on for.

The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare is at C nova/C too until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.