Compositor E

"A historical moment, scattered with light-hearted humour"

Last night we were transported back to 1693’s London to witness where and how Shakespeare’s first Folio was created. A historical moment, scattered with light-hearted humour and shared in an intimate space led to an enjoyable one act experience.

The dingy scenery gave us the immediate impression of the gloomy, unhygienic and squalid conditions of the 17th Century. I really enjoyed the set of this production.  The Omnibus Theatre made great use of the space, especially placing the bed above the door which was not just an amusing addition yet it also drummed home the cramped living conditions of the era. As an audience member I felt completely encapsulated within the four walls of the room where history was made and I credit the set design largely for that. The costumes albeit basic were appropriate and effective.

With some words appearing across the walls as they were being spoken, this relayed the strong message of the piece; how important words can be and how easily missing letters can change meanings. Also, the variety of lighting aided the atmospheric shifts, from a warm glow to a dim, silhouetted finale. I enjoyed observing the variations and how the subtle differences cleverly influenced the scenes.

One thing that I felt wasn’t as gripping (and at times lacked clarity) was the storyline. The play itself is set in an interesting historical period and the subject is intriguing, however it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. There isn’t a gripping plot and so this is where, for me, it fell flat. The relevance of the flashbacks we witnessed the main character John Leason undergoing aren’t always clear, however, I think this is a scriptural critique instead of an acting one. Despite this, the rest of the show displayed an engaging use of comedy to deliver its message in a lighthearted frame.

The three leads were all very committed to their roles and passed their lines with great projection and clarity. The actors held a good level of believability, holding the audiences attention throughout. 

Tré Medley played the 17 year old John Leason with charm, vulnerability and well rounded light and shade. This allowed us to warm to his character quite quickly. David Monteith, who played Richard Bardolp, had some really pleasant moments too. His comic timing and colourful vocal range brought a fun and vibrant dynamic to the show. Personally, I found Kaffe Keating’s masterful acting to be wholly captivating. He embodied his character completely and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his character Isaac Jaggard evolve and soften subtly with every scene.

Using a small ensemble alongside the main cast did help to add an appropriately tense atmosphere to the performance. However, their participation in a few of the scene changes lacked the stylised direction I was craving. I could see the vision of smooth transitions between scenes however I felt the execution was not as seamless or effective as I would have hoped. 

Overall, this show offered an interesting insight of the process from a play draft to a finished book. If you’re somewhat of a history enthusiast or would like to be transported back in time for the evening, then this is the show for you.

This show was reviewed on the 22nd September 2023.  Compositor E runs at the Omnibus Theatre until the 7th October 2023.  Tickets available here: COMPOSITOR E - Omnibus Theatre (omnibus-clapham.org)

Review written by Jasmine Alice

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Photo credit: Dan Tsantillis

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