One-Man Apocalypse Now



When it comes to the Fringe, Gareth K Vile discovers that the art of adaptation is not necessarily just creating a new version of an old favourite

A dapting a novel or i lm for the stage is a dangerous strategy. At worst, it can be an unnecessary repetition of a popular work that irritates its fanbase by challenging their interpretation or adds nothing new to the source material. The recent fuss about casting Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reveals that a passionate audience can also be rather conservative, while the plethora of jukebox musicals suggests that adapting pop music hits into a theatre show can be a sign of creative, if not exactly i nancial, bankruptcy.

Nevertheless, theatre-makers don’t resist the temptation to translate their favourite literature into performance, and the Fringe offers a wide range of adaptations that attempt to go beyond the obvious retelling of familiar narratives. LaPelle’s Factory have a ‘modern, deconstructed and misbehaving retelling’ of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat, written by Mufaro Makubika which promises to ‘update the themes and make changes

to the plot’. LePelle’s Olwen Davies and Ollie Smith come from a background in improvisation, and used Makubika’s script for their own end. Far from simply performing the story, they explain, ‘we pull texts apart and comment on them whilst simultaneously “acting” them.’ Aware that some audiences might not be familiar with Poe’s short story, Davies and Smith have researched various i lm versions to ensure that their meta-theatrical approach is accessible. ‘It’s the same as watching a i lm: you’ll have a different understanding if you read the book i rst, but it isn’t incomprehensible if you didn’t.’

theatre, and letting

Rejecting what

they call ‘actorly’ their personalities slip into the performance, they see The Black Cat as a way to collaborate with Poe’s dark tale, but without falling into the trap of over-intellectualising. ‘We also aren’t afraid of being silly. Contemporary theatre gets a reputation of being overly serious. We’ve found ways of countering these presumptions with dark humour we’ve woven into the performance.’

3–10 Aug 2017 THE LIST FESTIVAL 113