TRISTAN AND YSEULTKneehigh at Shakespeare's Globe
This daring deconstruction of an ancient legend is one of Kneehigh's greatest hits. It's been at the Cottesloe as well as in Cornwall, it's toured the States, and this latest outing slots in the Globe between Glasgow and Mold.
It fits well in the wooden O – the cast relish the contact with the audience, and the circus ring sits comfortably on the stage.
The show is an intoxicating mix of genres and styles: circus, music-hall, stand-up as well as moments of intense intimacy. An all-you-can-eat, kid-in-a-sweetshop gallimaufrey of effects which some of us remember being so radical in Ariane Mnouchkine's work back in the 70s. It's unashamedly physical, with perhaps rather too much choreographed violence. Even those who know Kneehigh only at the Globe – where Emma Rice presents her final season this winter – will recognise the naïve rhyming verse [Little Match Girl] the bitter-sweet airs (and the flying) [The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk] and the marvellous Mike Shepherd [Adolphus Tips] here playing King Mark of Kernow.
He's one of a very strong company, with Hannah Vassallo and Dominic Marsh as the lovers, audience favourite Niall Ashdown as the handmaiden Brangian, touchingly complicit in the bed-trick, Kirsty Woodward as Whitehands, the other Yseult who does most of the story telling, and an agile Kyle Lima as Frocin [the Dwarf in earlier versions] who betrays Tristan and ends up as one of the Unloved. They provide a geeky Greek chorus, Love Spotters in hoods, armed with binos, cameras and notebooks, the reluctant members of the Club of the Unloved, whose excellent house band – Martin and the Misfits - sits in the musicians' gallery.
The score is eclectic, its cultural relativism putting Nick Cave up against Richard Wagner, Only the Lonely against Oye Negra in a powerful, emotive soundtrack.