• Fri. Sep 29th, 2023

Fringe 2023: A Comedy of Tenors

ByFreddy Lowe

Aug 27, 2023
Royal Scots Club sign.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Comedy of Tenors, hosted by the Royal Scots Club, is a worthy and feel-good slice of Fringe theatre.  At a runtime of roughly two hours (including an interval!), it breaks the traditional structure of a one-hour quick-in-quick-out show.  It feels like a proper night out and is to be fervently recommended.

Written by the renowned Ken Ludwig and performed by the Edinburgh Makars (who have been performing at the Fringe for 50 years), these entertainers know their stuff.  The title’s tribute to Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors may provoke anticipation for a Shakespeare adaptation.  It’s not; it’s an original story.  However, it does earn the Shakespeare allusion: not through the plot, but through its many thematic similarities with A Comedy of Errors.  We have characters that look identical, witty mix-ups, mistaken identities, people overhearing conversations and misinterpreting them, run-around comedic farce, and much more.  Those who dislike the hammed-up theatricality of French farce should look away; those who love it will feel right at home.  For those somewhere in between, I’d highly recommend it, because whilst the show is farcical, it thankfully never strays into the Theatre of the Absurd!  Underneath all the shenanigans, there is a true heart to the story.

The story follows a highly-strung hotel manager mere hours before the curtain goes up on a concert he has organised.  The only problem is that he has the temperamental Tito Merelli as his main tenor.  Tito and his bonkers wife have a daughter. She, in turn, is secretly having an affair with a gorgeously handsome youngster, who just so happens to be Tito’s main rival in the singing industry, Carlo.  There’s also a bellhop who looks identical to Tito (played by the same actor), who can also sing pretty well but loves to lounge around and have affairs at inconvenient times.  (Tito’s wife and daughter can’t tell who is who.)  The hotel manager’s faithful assistant happens to be married to his boss’s daughter, who is pregnant and about to give birth.  So, when Tito deduces (incorrectly) that it’s his wife having an affair with Carlo and not his daughter, he pulls out of the concert in a huff mere hours before it’s due to start.  The cocktail of ingredients explodes into mayhem!

Every cast member is lively and a delight to watch.  The hotel manager earns a particularly special shoutout, as does the handsome Carlo, who was a phenomenal stage presence and oozed chemistry in every scene.  Possibly the most admirable star, however, was the poor man playing Tito/the bellhop who had to sprint around backstage to make consecutive onstage cues for both characters in the same scene.  

This play is as hammy and bonkers as one would expect from an early Shakespeare comedy farce but, ultimately, all the better for it.  

Image “Royal Scots Club” by Swedish Saguaro is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

By Freddy Lowe

Literature Editor