Assembly George Square, Edinburgh
The Power Behind the Crone is a wonderful piece of theatre, an exemplar of a Fringe show: perfectly suited to its space and time-slot, beautifully scripted, and acted with precision and panache. In case I haven’t made myself clear: I liked it. A lot.
Alison Skilbeck plays Professor Artemis Turret, a Shakespearean scholar, delivering a lecture to a group of mature students (that’s us). The topic is a refutation of the dictum,’There are no good parts in Shakespeare for older women’ and the big draw is Artemis’s old friend, Dame Bunti Smart, an internationally acclaimed actress, who is supposed to be performing the illustrative speeches. But, not for the first time it seems, Bunti lets Artemis down, and the Professor is forced to play the parts herself. Reluctant at first, she throws herself into the performances, unearthing her own talent in the process.
Skilbeck’s delivery is flawless. From the Grenfell-like humour of the Professor to the pride of Paulina, from the bitterness of Queen Margaret to the bawdiness of Mistress Quickly, Skilbeck has absolute control of the material and creates distinct, believable characters. It’s fascinating: the fictional lecture serves the same function as an actual lecture, albeit the most engaging one I’ve ever sat through. I’m learning as I watch; plays I know well are re-positioned, the older women highlighted.
It’s genuinely illuminating.