REVIEW: Tristram Shandy: Live at the ADC!

“That verily was bloody brilliant!”

ADC Main Show new writing robert eyers student writing Theatre tristram shandy will dalrymple

Laurence Sterne’s seemingly unadaptable novel Tristram Shandy is masterfully adapted and unapologetically performed on the ADC stage in an explosive, anarchic and all-together hilarious twist on the original nine volume epic.

By placing an interview between Tristram and his publicist, Alice at the centre of the production, writer Will Dalrymple brilliantly sidesteps all major obstacles that face an adaptation of this caliber. All potential difficulties that would arise become meta-theatrical winks at the audience, poking fun at Tristram’s convoluted narrative style.

Furthermore casting Tristram as director of the events in his life allows for narrative freedom for the company, unconstrained by the Sterne’s chronological rigidity, and also allows for enormous comic potential which is fully explored. Tristram’s satirical wit is turned onto the actors as he crudely comments on their deficiencies.

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The fabulous cast of Tristram Shandy

These deficiencies were, however, wholly not present. From the moment Tim Atkin sputters onto the stage he fully captures the role of Tristram, so much so that after the performance is over it is difficult to think of Tristram as anyone else.  His performance pulled the show together, acting as a reliable touchstone for the audience. The combination of Tim’s energy and his remarkably precise characterisation gave the show the fast-paced kick it needed. This was counterbalanced wonderfully by Inge-Vera Lipsius’  performance as Alice a character whose hilarity required an awkward wit that is difficult to achieve that was done very well.

Of the remainder of the cast, all though all were energetic and enthusiastic, a few characters really stood out. Robert Eyer’s performance as Uncle Toby had many of the audience in fits. As the production became more and more anarchic all Toby had to do was pull a certain facial expression to incite an eruption of laughter from the audience. It is a testament to the skill of the cast as a whole that even as small a role as the midwife, played by Elinor Lipman, was hilarious, absurd, grotesque and splendid!

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Absurd? Grotesque? Splendid?

The production refreshingly played to its audience as well. Having torn down the fourth wall before anyone even stepped foot onstage, there was an awareness in the script of the Cambridge audience which had the effect of really inviting everyone in – encouraging the audience to enjoy themselves. The satire of the various Cambridge newspapers, not to mention “checking ones privilege” was well-received and ingenious.

The only real criticism that I think can be had of the show was its slightly long run time. With a show as anarchic and fast paced as this, it is most effective when not too long. In general some of the sketches could have been refined and perhaps shortened, but for a first performance the show was really top notch. There is no doubt that it will improve night after night.

Every element of this production crackled with a fast-paced farcical energy, from Tristram’s awkward stage-rocking inception, to the ridiculous eye opening use of props to the loss of theatrical control all together.

If you enjoy fast paced, absurd, ‘meta’ comedy complete with linguistic playfulness and larger than life performance, I cannot recommend this show enough.

4/5 Stars