With the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre on an open-ended hiatus due to directorial illness and an avaricious church, Revolution Shakespeare takes the mantle as the only Bard-specific company in the city. Rev Shakes’ annual mainstage productions begin the final weekend of the Fringe and showcase a sensibility at home in the festival (outdoors, FREE, music-filled, unconventional choices). This year’s piece is the rarely produced KING JOHN, a politically themed play in keeping with the election season. Much-seen Philadelphia actor Carlo Campbell plays Philip the Bastard, the illegitimate son of the titular king’s brother, Richard the Lionheart. He talks to Phindie about the play, his character, and the trip hop music that will accompany the production. [Hawthorne Park, 12th and Catherine streets] September 21-October 1, 2016; fringearts.com/king-john; revolutionshakespeare.org.
Phindie: How well did you know KING JOHN before you were cast?
Carlo Campbell: I only knew King John as a play I had seen included in the complete works of Shakespeare. I had no real world experience with it, nor did I have any noteworthy points of reference to the greats who had inhabited any of the roles, so I didn’t have the pressure of Oliver, or James Earl Jones’s interpretation, which is a very fresh space to occupy, mentally, in relation to a piece by the Bard of Avon.
Phindie: What attracted you to the play and the role?
Carlo Campbell: Rev Shakes attracted me to the play. The work that they have done the past two summers really inspires me still and informs some of my own work with our own Theatre In The X company. The language is rich!!! Dan Kern is also a monster, that is the whip cream on this beautiful opportunity.
Phindie: Why do you think KING JOHN is rarely performed?
Carlo Campbell: I think that the play may be rarely performed because, well… I don’t know. It has towering language, beautiful relationship conflict, and it it just a strong piece. Maybe something in it politically just rubs producers the wrong way.
Phindie: Why do you think it should be performed more?
Carlo Campbell: It most likely will see a resurgence. Any company who produces it will likely receive a great response, at least in regards to curiosity, and I think that is something that every theater company looks for and welcomes.
Phindie: Your own company, Theatre in the X, has presented Shakespeare en plein
air. What do you like about outdoors theater?
Carlo Campbell: It is freeing to do work outside. There is something very invigorating about that lack of control that comes with outside theater. It is the original home of the theater. It has different demands. Being heard in the back of the house takes on a whole new meaning. We also tap into to that great heritage that theater artist of hundreds of years have been a part of. It sharpens the skill set and gives you something that can never be taken away.
Phindie: It’s been a while since I heard the term “trip hop”. Were you a fan of
Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, Morcheeba, and co in the 90s?
Carlo Campbell: I love Portishead. They evoke feelings in me that are very unique.
Phindie: Yes! What makes the music so fitting to the production?
I love that we are incorporating trip hop. It is dreary, moody, midnight, rainy day music. All Shakespeare had a musical element in its day and this an appropriate nod to this production, in this space, at this time.
Phindie: What makes Philip such a bastard?
Carlo Campbell: He is unbridled. An unharnessed horse, who has a keen awareness of how to appreciate and manipulate his circumstance. He is like a mad social scientist with huge pair, willing to put it all on the table, let the chips fall, and tell you what he thinks about it.
Phindie: Nice. Thanks Carlo!