REVIEWED BY LIAM GOLDS
Variety performer David Ladderman brings to the Comedy Festival a one-man interpretation of King Lear Battle of the Bastards. Admittedly, it’s a bit of niche performance. A night of Shakespeare might be a turn off for some expecting some stand up. Thankfully, Ladderman knows this. His show is filled with a variety of means to keep the attention of those most likely to be scared off, from juggling to jokes.
He keeps the focus is squarely on a single subplot and runs through it in a barebones, cliff notes style. Anything unnecessary for ones enjoyment or understanding is avoided. What he does perform is delivered with gusto and physicality, Ladderman jumping between characters, and all over the stage, with ease.
Where the comedy comes in is through the audience interaction. Throughout, those in the theatre are encouraged to play along, with sound effects or chants or anything else Ladderman needs in the moment. There are only so many characters he can play at once, so it comes as no surprise when members of the audience are invited onstage for a particularly pivotal scene.
The show I attended featured one actor a little shy and another a little too eager, but Ladderman was able to bounce off of both, keeping everyone in the theatre attentive and entertained. Considering the possibilities brought in with each new crowd, this spontaneity might be one of the shows biggest draws. It helps that said scene involved creative use of a pumpkin and some grisly violence.
It really shouldn’t work, but whether you or not you have a working knowledge of Shakespeare, Battle of the Bastards makes for an entertaining evening. David Ladderman is a charismatic host, and the unpredictable reactions of the audience allow for a performance that could change on a dime. At the very least it adds some laughs into one of the Bard’s greatest tragedies.
Battle Of The Bastards is on at The Basement Theatre Wed 1 May – Sat 4 May, 7pm as part of NZ International Comedy Festival.