Camden Fringe 2023: The Machiavelli Project at Etcetera Theatre
As a featured play in the 2024 Camden Fringe Festival, The Machiavelli Project takes centre stage at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden, offering a unique exploration of the life and anecdotes of Niccolò Machiavelli. Penned by Oakley Swinson, this thought-provoking play boldly challenges conventional perceptions of Machiavelli and questions the accuracy of historical accounts.
Under the adept guidance of director Atrix Cragnotti, the play boasts several commendable elements, notably the inventive utilisation of space to bring Swinson’s multifaceted narrative to life. However, there remains an underlying sense of fragmentation, almost as though the production is still amid refinement. The director inviting audience feedback at the play’s conclusion signals a collaborative spirit, yet also raises the question of the play’s readiness for a full-fledged audience experience.
The production begins with Machiavelli (Swinson) introspectively musing about his past and the public’s perception of him as he stands at life’s crossroads. Swinson’s incorporation of a guitar-accompanied song akin to the prologue of a Shakespearean play sets the stage. Nonetheless, much like other facets of the production, this is incomplete. While it could be interpreted as a deliberate artistic choice mirroring Machiavelli’s unfinished endeavours, such nuances might warrant deeper contemplation for viewers to grasp.
Arden Fitzroy, in the role of Cesare Borgia, bravely tackles the intricate challenge of embodying a historically enigmatic character. Fitzroy’s portrayal skillfully aims to shed light on the internal turmoil of navigating an “othered” existence within a heteronormative society. However, certain moments verge on an excessive intensity, resembling a school production rather than a meticulously honed piece of theatre, even amidst the eclectic ambience of the Camden Fringe. Regrettably, what starts as a promising and well-paced show, with well-conceived elements, loses its momentum, transitioning into a more wearisome spectacle than an enthralling engagement for the audience.
On the whole, the experience proved to have the potential to be a great hour of theatre, and with the right judicious revisions it will likely bear the fruit that it wants to. The concern arises from a delicate balance between audience input and artistic integrity – there is a risk that the collaborative nature might dilute the essence of the play. Alternatively, one might consider that the current rendition is a promising concept that requires further refinement to reach its full potential.
The Machiavelli Project is at Etcetera Theatre from 15th until 18th August 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.