August 13, 2010 / 4:19 PM / in 9 years

Shakespeare inspires again at Edinburgh fringe fest

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Simon Callow’s first acting job was as the front end of a horse at the Edinburgh Festival 37 years ago.

Now he is a star performer with an acclaimed play on Shakespeare at the world’s largest annual artistic spree.

There are several performances on Shakespeare at this year’s Fringe festival running to the end of August, including two different takes on the Bard from Australia.

Callow’s one-man performance in “Shakespeare the man from Stratford,” a new production by Shakespeare biographer Jonathan Bate, is playing to sell-out audiences in Edinburgh after a tour of England to critical acclaim. Fresh out of drama school, Callow first came to Edinburgh in 1973 in search of acting work.

“My experience of the theater proved to be quite different from anything for which my training had prepared me. In my first play, I was the front end of a horse...,” he relates in his autobiography “My Life In Pieces”.

The play was “Woyzeck” by 19th century German dramatist Karl Georg Buchner.

Now one of Britain’s top actors, his current production takes in the “seven stages of man,” following Shakespeare from his birth, mewling and puking in his mother’s arms — “Puking, Shakespeare liked strong words” — through his boyhood in Stratford, his theatrical career in London, to “old age” back on the banks of the river Avon and his death aged only 52.

“Just Macbeth” by Andy Griffiths, which had a six-week run at the Sydney Opera House before arriving in Edinburgh, is a hilarious romp through the Scottish play — not noted as one of Shakespeare’s funnier productions.

Six actors and a garden gnome enchant the kids in the crowd with grotesque antics, sword fights and a talking severed head, while there is enough depth to keep adults entertained in the Assembly Ballroom.

“Shakespeare’s Mothers: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know” from Straylight Australia provides a different take on the Bard. Shakespeare’s women, ranging from King Lear’s daughters, through Lady Macbeth to Miranda in “The Tempest” relive exciting moments from their past.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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