Review: I Know You of Old
Claudio - Conor O'Kane
Benedick - David Fairs
Beatrice - Sarah Lambie
Hero is dead.
The night before the funeral, the strange circumstances of her death hang in the air - are the rumours about Hero to be trusted?
At her coffin, the eye of the storm, her fiance Claudio is wracked with grief and guilt.
When Hero’s sharp-tongued cousin Beatrice arrives, closely followed by notorious playboy Benedick, Claudio sees a way to atone for former wrongs and do one last thing for Hero - he will bring this prickly pair together.
But extreme emotional circumstances can make you act in peculiar ways.
What might you do to ease the pain?
Would you abandon yourself to recklessness?
Could you laugh through the tears?
Using only Shakespeare’s original text, David Fairs re-orchestrates Much Ado About Nothing into a new, parallel dark comedy: I Know You Of Old.
Join the legendary Benedick and Beatrice as they stalk the midnight shadows of this secluded chapel - their battles of wit are as sparkling as ever, but is there a darkness at the heart of the Merry War …?
After their 2016 Hope Theatre success Macbeths, GOLEM! returns with another reimagined and repurposed Shakespeare adaptation, shedding new light on a story you might think you already know.
We all have our favourite Shakespeare plays ... don't we?
Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, first performed around 1598/99, is not one of mine, but a detailed discussion of the reasons is for another day.
My purpose in mentioning Much Ado About Nothing, as you'll understand from the synopsis if you stopped-off to read it, is that 'I Know You of Old' is a reworking of Shakespeare's play, but using only the original text.
Now that sounds to me like an incredible amount of work and a very substantial achievement by the writer, David Fairs, who also takes on the role of Benedick in this tightly-managed and intriguing three-hander which features characters from Shakespeare's original, but injects a twist into the story.
The odour of joss sticks or maybe heavily-scented candles hangs in the air as we enter the auditorium.
Whatever the smell actually is, it lends a churchy, funereal atmosphere to the setting which is somewhat novel since, rather sadly, we rarely encounter olfactory devices in theatrical productions, but it's a neat and authentic touch here.
Once seated, we find ourselves in a chapel with the dour presence of a coffin in the centre of the room, draped in a lacy covering.
Inside resides Hero who has recently met her demise and is soon to be consigned to the earth and the gnawing of the worms.
What follows are interactions between three characters - Claudio (Hero's fiancé), Beatrice (Hero's cousin) and Benedick (a somewhat devious libertine and friend of Claudio).
Spot-on casting here makes for thoroughly watchable performances.
Conor O'Kane's grieving Claudio is not just riddled with guilt, but is a man whose physical appearance and personality seem to shout-out vulnerability - someone who perhaps can be easily duped, particularly by someone who purports to be his friend.
We first meet him partially disguised in a motorcycle helmet, for this is a modern setting even encompassing a mobile phone playing a custom-recorded video.
The sparks in the drama, as well as much of the humour, come from the well-effected sniping between David Fairs' Benedick and Sarah Lambie's Beatrice.
Yet the pair also make a well-described and perfectly believable transition when their verbal crossfire subsides into romantic love.
As with many plays, this is one of two very definite halves - not in terms of one half being better than another, but in the difference between the two.
The post-interval segment is unexpectedly darker, revealing a more sinister side to Mr Fairs' snakelike Benedick and, for me at least, making Shakespeare's story rather more tantalising and palatable in the process.
'I Know You of Old' is a clever, intelligently-crafted play which proves highly successful thanks to tight and skilled direction, matched by enjoyable performances from an exceptionally capable cast.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Hope Theatre
Our show listing for I Know You of Old
Read our reviews' policy