Struan Erlenborn reviews Pistorius: A Shakespearean Tragedy, which went up in The Barron last week as a part of Mermaid’s Shakespeare Festival.


When you walk into The Barron to sit down and watch a tragedy, it is a surprise to almost immediately encounter laughter from the audience. Do not get it twisted, this was the good kind of laughter. Pistorius: A Shakespearean Tragedy was a fresh new play, written and directed by Isaac Mayne, which proved to surprise and entertain the audience with its novelty.

The laughter was never at the tragic plot of the famed Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, whose trial for the murder of his fiancé made international headlines, but was instead a result of the sometimes bazaar feeling of time jumps when you hear an actor speaking in Elizabethan verse about their cell phone. The language was really impressive. In fact, what I believed may prove to be a hindrance rather than an asset to the author proved to be a space in which there was room to play and explore. The combination of free verse and rhyming felt comfortable and flowed well. It all suggested a strong command of Shakespearean language.

The acting in this performance was above average for productions of its size in St Andrews. It is difficult for actors to work with a brand new text, particularly something short and snappy, with no reference points to be found in other performances or in literature pertaining to the piece. It was pretty obvious in this case that the direction was the key to success, and the actors looked confident and energetic in spite of the trickiness of Shakespearean dialogue. Therefore, big props go to Isaac and his co-director Isabelle Duff.

There are really only two qualms I had with the piece. The first is that I felt that the scenes in the courtroom could have been more intense and could have moved faster. This I believe is more of a mark against the shortcomings of The Barron than the author. It is cliché to blame The Barron for all a productions issues, but in this case I really feel that the show deserved and longed for a larger scale production. It is no joke that Hugh Casey talked about the show being on the big stage before you know it. This production yearns for bigger and badder set pieces, a full scale orchestra, and big production and stage staff. The Barron’s accommodations for the courtroom scenes left it feeling a little dry and boring. My second criticism is that the audience deserved more time experiencing the home life before and during the trial. We are asked to become invested in the tragic hero and, I feel, be comfortable picking a side at the trial based on too little information given in the preceding scenes. I would like to see the characters struggle for longer than was performed. Ultimately, however, in the short span of the play I think the major plot points were well realized and the basic fall from grace of Pistorius was engaging.

This was a great little short production. I would love to see it become a great big long production. I expect it soon. Hear that, Isaac?


Struan Erlenborn