Antonio! is an extremely high energy, surprisingly brilliant romp around several Shakespeare plays including Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. Why ‘brilliant romp’? Why these plays? Well, Antonio! is a queer punk rock pirate musical. Butch Mermaid Productions, the team behind the show, noticed that a character named Antonio features in several of Shakespeare’s plays. So follows Antonio!, a wonderful and catchy musical which explores and creates the story of Antonio as if he had been Shakespeare’s lover.
From the opening number of Antonio! I am incredibly impressed. Within minutes, we are all singing, screaming ‘fuck money’ in time with the band. The atmosphere feels like that of a concert. Each song is just wonderful and feels like a hit on its own, even without any of the context.
William Duignan plays the titular character and plays him perfectly – Antonio is sultry, flirtatious and fun, and Duignan’s portrayal of him is powerful and well characterised. The show is structured like a concert for the band Fools of Love, of which Antonio is the lead singer and frontman. This means
The other four band members also wow. It is clear just how passionate they all are and they all have such energy. Andy Manning’s solo song is a real highlight of the show. They are skilled at playing a character with both humour and a degree of seriousness.
Felix Crossley-Pritchard plays a number of roles throughout, which allows him to really show his brilliant comedic skills – he is hilarious and talented.
Ania Upstill is also an incredible engaging performer. Though they don’t have a major role in the show, at times I find myself watching them instead of Antonio. Similarly, Evan Michael Smith is such a powerful performer that really commands the stage.
The joy that the audience feel watching these performers makes this show into a powerful one – in fact, there were several people in the audience who were visiting for a second or third time, a testament to the brilliance of the show.
This is where Antonio! really shines – it is silly, hilarious and the music is brilliant, but it also accurately represents some of Shakespeare, without being inaccessible. My friend who I went with, who is a much bigger Shakespeare fan than me, said that at times there were direct quotes. Antonio! is brilliant well written throughout.
The costume design of the show is also perfect – it is fun and fits so well with the themes of the show.
Antonio! is one of the best things I saw this Fringe – as I am writing this review after the end of the Fringe, I can say this with complete confidence. I hope there is a way that one day I can watch or listen to the songs of Antonio! again.
Image provided to The Student as press material.