YISF 2015: Timon of Athens

As Yorkshakes is coming to its close, Unknown Magazine reviews Timon of Athens at the De Grey Rooms on behalf of York Theatre Royal

Poster Courtesy of the York International Shakespeare Festival

One of Shakespeare’s lesser known works, Timon of Athens is a dark fable that warns of frivolity, vanity and inauthenticity. The York Shakespeare Project reinvigorates this play with gags, house music, and titillating dance sequences, making the hard medicine of tragedy go down more smoothly than expected.

The cast’s performance was memorable; John Hoyland’s portrayal of Timon was layerered with a bitterness that was captivatingly sharp, but Cat Hall’s (Apemantus) and Lucy Simpson (Flavius) stole the spotlight. The former’s fluid and natural command of Shakespeare’s dialogue made her refreshing, sharp-tongued presence on stage a true asset to the performance; Simpson’s sincere and unfaltering Flavius drew the audience into the sadness of the play, delivering moments of melancholy with authenticity without contrivance.

The choreography, although unusual for a Shakespearean play, interjected the plot with an interesting mix of speech and spectacle. It showed how the word of Timon’s dire straits was diffused by gossip, as the cast rushed around the stage, pausing for intersecting moments of speech. Intentional or not, in the feast scenes I noticed the gyrations of some of the Lords and Ladies were reminiscent of those unspeakable dance moves that one only sees at drunken family occasions. However, these came to be my favourite element of the choreography, injecting the performance with humour and working well to characterise the vain Athenians who drain Timon of his wealth.

Photography by Greg Veit
Photography by Greg Veit Photography

The close proximity between the audience and the actors enabled an intimate interaction

Although a modest venue, director Ruby Clarke did well to maximise the space, something she also utilised exceptionally in her Border Line. She successfully created an illusion of an off-stage areas via the multidirectional entrances and exits. Additionally, the close proximity between the audience and the actors enabled an intimate interaction. Evidently, each member of the cast has an authentic love of Shakespeare, with the project itself ambitiously aiming to perform all of Shakespeare’s plays over a twenty-year period. This enthusiasm for the Bard was matched by the audience. The genuine, welcoming atmosphere did well to help counter the limitations that existed in the modesty of the venue. Any fans of Shakespeare or dance lovers would enjoy this production. If you’re lucky enough to fall into both of those categories, then this is definitely for you.

*Timon of Athens is playing 14th-17th at the De Grey Rooms