A young and exciting new troupe, D’Animate Theatre has quickly made a name for itself at the Fringe for taking lesser-known works of old masters and reinterpreting them with farce, physical theatre and a little po-mo verve. After a stonking double of Samuel Beckett’s Roughs last year, the troupe have returned to Edinburgh with a newly revamped version of Bitesize Chekhov; their blistering, poignant and hilarious tumble through three of the Russian writer’s one-act plays, which packed out Merchant’s Hall in 2012.
‘The Dangers of Tobacco’ and ‘The Proposal’ dial everything up to 11 – the actors throwing themselves about as foppish aristocrats who, in the course of attempting to do a simple task, crumble into self-loathing and mania. The final piece, ‘Swan Song’, is more solemn, with Will Mytum playing an aged actor coming to terms with the end of his career from the stage of an empty theatre, staring into the literal and metaphorical pit that confronts him as he nears the end of his life.
The frenetic set changes, the jumping about and the manic, laugh-a-minute direction all fly in the face of the smidge-more naturalistic bent of the source material. But D’Animate walks the tightrope between farce and pathos masterfully; each thump, shout and grimace gesturing to an existential crisis waiting in the wings.
These guys may be cock-sure young upstarts, tearing through the greats and reading into them what they will, but they’re bloody good at it.
Tom Slater is assistant editor at spiked.