If you ever visit the Fringe, odds are that at some point you will take a turn somewhere off the Royal Mile and end up in what I lovingly refer to as the “weird part” of the festival. The Temptation of St Anthony resides very much in that zone.
Teatro Cassone’s production revolving around the hermithood of St Anthony is nothing if not absurd, utilising puppets, audience participation and the devil to their full effect. The use of physical theatre is fantastic, creating viscerally violent and painful moments without the need for traditional stage fighting. Seemingly coming from the school of commedia dell’arte, director Mattia Mariotti provides a master class in clowning, each character a contortion of a base concept for both comic and horrific effect. With a wealth of directors more than ready to take the road most travelled by, Mariotti dares to tap dance into the sunset.
Unfortunately this willingness to produce charactertures can at times be the plays’ curse. While this is fine for the portrayal of the more demonically inclined characters, most notably Hilarion (Dominic Kimberlin on full floor-licking, flower-eating form), the play lacks any real degrees of shade when it most needs it, namely in the monologues of St Anthony (Adam Ishaque). When the rest of the cast was in full psychotic mode, the play could have done with a titular character who was more reserved at the beginning, to give us a greater sense of transformation.
There needs to be method in the madness, and at times it seemed like the reigns were left a little too loose. This aside, great vision and a strong ensemble performance meant The Temptation of St Anthony was a perfect example of why it is worth leaving your comfort zone. It is in that weird part of the Fringe that you often find the most thought provoking gems, a group which The Temptation of St Anthony is most readily at home in.