French company Eat a Crocodile take Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and refashion it into a whimsical retelling, played out of five scrappy red beach huts positioned at the back of the stage. It's a sweet, if flawed production that doesn't ever quite tap into the poetry or raucous humour of the original.
Performed in French with English supertitles, there are glimpses of Shakespeare's text in the translation, but the play has been cut and rearranged to whizz through in a run time of two hours with no interval. A cast of five play all the characters, with Andrew Aguecheek being a ventriloquist's dummy manipulated by Toby Belch (played by Vincent Berger). Antonio Gil Martinez plays Orsino and Malvolio and is hilarious as both – he's a slimy, romantic ballad-loving Orsino, while his jutting jawed, thinning haired Malvolio is a total hoot.
Elsewhere, the fool is played by Geoffrey Carey, who does nothing but offer up tacky jokes in English, which Olivia thinks are hilarious. Carey is more like a sage than a fool, often sitting in the front of his beach hut with a cup of tea and simply observing the action.
Ultimately, it's the roles with the laughs – Malvolio, Toby Belch, Orsino – that save the production from feeling a little pointless. The physical humour and slapstick comedy are the most enjoyable aspects to this production. The sheds at the back of the stage feel like a cute but unnecessary quirk. The characters change costume in them, hide, get married in them, and they look very nice, but are not much more than an interesting way of getting the cast on and off the stage.
This is what characterises much of Shake; well-executed ideas that are really only ways of making things look good. And even with the running time cut, the production does drag. In its best moments there's things to enjoy in Shake, but the production brings little new to Shakespeare's original.
Shake runs at the Lyceum Theatre as part of the Edinburgh International Festival until 13 August.