Jeremy Banx writes:
“Fuck off, you loggerheaded fool-born gudgeon!”
Just one of the more acerbic lines from ‘Compositor E’; a new play written by Charles Dupré; set just seven years after Shakespeare’s death, at the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham Common. It certainly had me chuckling during the course of a thought-provoking evening at the theatre.
Dupré takes the first Folio printing of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and asks how much of it was Shakespeare, and how much was interpreted by the ‘lowly’ printers who made it all fit on the page in the short time they were allowed by commercial necessity.
The play asks us when and how reality is decided. And by whom. Forensically directed by Marie McCarthy, with a suitably moody set by Sophia Pardon (Jackson Pollock splatter patterns all over the floor, torture chamber-like printing apparatus to the fore and a string of hanging folio pages draped across the set; satisfyingly giving unity to the whole) the play was interspersed with ‘son et lumière’ type projections of letters and words -in olde fonts- to accompany the action at strategic points.
Fine performances by the entire cast: Tré Medley as the apprentice ingénue who can not only read, but question the very meaning of the bard’s text (and offer up his own versions); Kaffe Keating as Isaac Jaggard the harried boss of the printing firm in question (in the absence of his dying, swearing father, who appears only once in a burst of, already quoted, skilfully creative off-stage filth); David Monteith as Richard Bardolph, the old lag, suffering from slow poisoning brought on by years of intimacy with 17th century printer’s ink; who sees his dreams of inheriting the print works evaporate -very much in the manner of a Shakespearean tragedy in its own right.
This was the red-blooded meat that was thrown to PCO members to gorge themselves on; from which an impromptu exhibition of cartoons based on printing, Shakespeare, fonts, Macbeth, swearing (mea culpa), was held in the theatre’s café.
And very good it looked, too. It’s quite amazing what we find in our filing cabinets; and our bottom drawers, our bins and our minds -ready to unleash on an unsuspecting public at a moments notice. Literary gags, puns, visual gags; they were all there.
The Omnibus Theatre is an old library converted into a quirky, slightly maze-like temple of public entertainment. The café is light and airy, perfect for the hanging -or rather sticking- of cartoons on its walls. Mrs Banx was able to confirm that they sell the best vegan sausage rolls she’d ever tasted.
Hopefully there will be more opportunities to hold exhibitions at the Omnibus. It’s a great little venue with a lot of scope.
As I conclude, I should confess my own editing of reality. The earlier quote was actually from a rehearsal, which I sat through, sketchbook in hand, pen poised, for the seeking of gags from the ether. Due to time constrictions, in the finished performance, the offstage line became “Fuck off!”
Cartoon © Jeremy Banx
A pity. I think I favour my own edited brand of reality.
PS: A gudgeon is a freshwater, bottom dwelling fish; found in rapids and other fast moving water.