Ukraine Fringe digital review: Caliban’s Codex / The 4 Worst Things I’ve Ever Done

Caliban’s Codex – Fetch Theatre (UK), 45 min.

Promotional image for Caliban's Codex

John Knowles and Fetch Theatre (who also have Punched in this festival) bring the play Caliban’s Codex to the Ukraine Fringe, with Emily Carding as Caliban.

This production is heading to Shakespeare North Playhouse from 7-9 Sep, but this is a digital version that gives the misshapen servant of Prospero his own voice.

After all, for all his roughness and grossness, Caliban can speak, and now he has been given the gift and curse of language, he is ready to make himself known.

Here, in Knowles’s sequel to The Tempest, we meet Caliban a decade after the departure of Prospero back to Milan, where he tries to bring back the magic and independence of an isle possessed by outsiders.

Carding is no stranger to the depiction of misfits in Shakespeare, having made their mark in Richard III, and here, they give a strong and intense performance of physical power and vocal command.

With the flicker of flames and the torn pages of books, the only decoration in the outdoor space in which Caliban speaks to us, there is an immediacy to proceedings.

Not human, nor beast, Caliban recounts a tale of a neglectful mother, Sycorax, a spirit, Ariel, bound in torment, and the impact of island invaders, with a sharp intelligence.

Knowles brings the words of the Bard into an exploration of contemporary concerns of colonialism, imprisonment, and cultural appropriation. It isn’t overdone, but it does give a new perspective to the stories of Ariel and Caliban.


The 4 Worst Things I’ve Ever Done – Brunswick Productions Ltd (Ireland), 60 min.

Promotional image for The 4 Worst Things I Have Ever Done

A new one-woman play written by Ewan McGowan-Gregg and performed by Katie Shortt, this play from Ireland starts, of course, with the sin of having sex and the spiritual consequences.

Erin is from Belfast, and she’s chatty and open about her life. There are recorded voices and sounds that make The 4 Worst Things jump into life, while not quite living up to the promise of its blurb.

So, from microwaving a hamster (see, these are really the worst things), the story quickly becomes a dramatic showcase rather than a black comedy. A story where everything “brings you closer to Him” (to God).

Shortt is an interesting actor, a gifted mimic who can bring out the malicious and the vulnerable in Erin, calm and confident at one point, withdrawn and weary the next

A tricky piece of writing to pull off, this is a strong piece from Brunswick Productions and easily sold out recently in Edinburgh, showing the potential for this blend of confessional comedy and dry dramatic vignettes.

At an hour, it occasionally drags and meanders off from its core idea, but this is a small show with big ideas, in a set dominated by a sign with “#srygran” on it.

Erin’s lack of empathy with a friend in crisis is handled well, highlighting her own conflict and views on intimate freedom, her own experience. More of this could inform a separate play.


Ukraine Fringe continues to 3 Sep with a live programme in Kyiv (details here) and an online programme on Scenesaver (details here) where you can view titles for free or with an optional donation.

Scenesaver presents a wide variety of theatre shows from across the worldwide fringe. Register for free here.

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