Every time I write about Propeller it becomes more difficult – there are hardly enough superlatives in the English language to describe their productions without tedious and obsequious repetition. If anything they seem to be getting better. This year’s treat – Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew – were, jointly, the best I’ve seen from the all male company. It is very hard to find anything to criticise about Propeller but, just for fun, I’ll have a go.
Having an all male company is much less of a restriction than you might imagine. The female characters are played very matter-of-factly with no wigs, false boobs or make-up and it works fine. However, one issue is that there are no traditional character actors in the company. They are all fit young men with an average age of not much more than thirty-five, I would imagine.
One of the criticisms often levelled at the old rep companies was that you had actors playing twenty year-olds one week and eighty year-olds the next, with neither of them being totally convincing. Propeller is a bit like that and, on reflection, I found the fact that Vince Leigh’s portrayal of Sly/Petruchio and Sir Toby Belch were almost identical, a bit puzzling. That said, I am sure it was deliberate and I know Edward Hall is a great one for finding comparisons in Shakespeare’s work and in pairing plays in order to exploit them.
But I am being deliberately picky. I loved them and it was great to see full houses of audiences consisting of young, old and middle aged theatre-goers in almost equal proportions. That in itself is rare but convincingly demonstrates the quality and appeal of Propeller. ★★★★★ Michael Hasted