Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: Violent Delights: A Shakespearean Brawl-esque Sideshow

Warehouse

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 20, midnight (Friday night)

Sunday, July 21, 2:45 p.m.

Tuesday, July 23, 6:45 p.m.

Friday, July 26, 10:00 p.m.

They say: "Step into the Circus of Violent Delights. Blending stage combat, dance, clowning and traditional theatrical convention, our charismatic Ringmaster leads you through Shakespeare's most spectacular life or death scenarios. But remember, 'violent delights have violent ends.'"

Camila's Take: Violent Delights aims to be a supercut of all the juiciest, most dramatic of Shakespeare's battles. In a meta-theatrical twist, the montage is being put on by a circus with a mysteriously traumatic past. Temperance, the circus's owner, constantly pleads for for moderation (temperance, geddit?) while an unhinged ringleader pushes for a more dangerous, fight-centric show. As it all heads towards a demented denouement, the actors break from Shakespeare's characters to reveal the romances and resentments of the circus performers.

It's a promising conceit, but Violent Delights asks an awful lot of its performers. A sampling of required talents, above and beyond acting ability:

  • Stage fighting (of course)
  • Modern dance
  • Flamenco
  • Clowning
  • Kendo/kenjutsu
  • Stumble-free waltzing
  • Acrobatics
  • Tumbling
  • Shakespearean dialogue
  • Fake pro wrestling

Everybody onstage had mastered several of those arts, but it's no insult to the cast to say that nobody could ace them all. With the uneven mix of talents on stage, the dance and combat pieces just didn't quite hit their targets.

Violent Delights also demands much from its audience. There's an interesting juxtaposition of Henry's St. Crispin's Day speech and some of Falstaff's lines from Henry IV, Part 1 – but it's most meaningful if you know your Shrewsbury from your Agincourt. Without a strong working knowledge of Shakespeare, much of the action will make very little sense.

And yes, I'll admit it: after the show, I had to google "Titus Andronicus summary." My Shakespearean inadequacies aside, a quick glance at that play's plot highlights a more fundamental problem—Violent Delights just isn't violent enough to justify Temperance's trepidation or the ringleader's bombast. Andronicus, unedited, is far more gruesome and disturbing than this supposedly violence-themed adaptation.

Violent Delights is admirably ambitious. But overall, I'm siding with Temperance: "It sounds great, it really does. But it's just not realistic."

See it if: You win all the Shakespeare-themed questions on trivia night, and love every sword fight you've ever seen.

Skip it if: You were hoping that "brawl-esque" meant fighting plus nudity.

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