Review: DOING SHAKESPEARE, Bridewell Theatre

Chaos ensues when six actors arrive to play six Shakespearean roles - from six different plays.

By: Nov. 04, 2021
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Review: DOING SHAKESPEARE, Bridewell Theatre

Review: DOING SHAKESPEARE, Bridewell Theatre Back together in Felching Village Hall for the first time since lockdown, six amateur actors of varying levels of enthusiasm (but roughly the same level of skill - go on, guess) come together to do Shakespeare the way ol' Shakey did it back in the day. Learn you parts, meet up in the afternoon, go on in the evening. Of course, there was no Zoom back in 1600, so Will could be assured that all the actors knew which play was being staged - but communication technology has never been very good at communication...

Tom has prepared King Lear, Rebecca has done The Taming of the Shrew, Terri Macbeth, Jason Romeo and Juliet, Ebon Hamlet and Judith Pericles - because that's the only play she knows and she always says a few lines from that regardless of the production in hand. Surprisingly (or, let's face it, not so surprisingly), unless you're in Stratford-upon-Avon or the West End, that works. Cue a mash-up.

David Spicer's comedy takes a while to get to its sharp end, but it's worth waiting for, as there's a real pleasure to be had in hearing the famous lines and almost as much in hearing the cod stuff in-between. I'd love to write that I could instantly recognise the immortal quotes and that it really jarred when the pastiche kicked in, but I couldn't. Partly that's due to Spicer's clever writing, partly down to some expert delivery from the cast and partly the fact that faking Shakespeare is (perhaps) easier than it might appear. Throw in the odd "Prithee", "My liege", and "Harken!", set it against a blank verse rhythm and you're bubbling. It all makes for an amusing take, whether you think you know Shakespeare or not.

The actual actors are recognisable types from so many comedies past. Steve Arnold has a lot of fun To-Be-Or-Not-To-Being with his earnest Ebon, Kathryn Chambers goes full panto as a Weird Sister and Farron Ronan was delightful as the dimmish but imaginative Judith. If some of the comedy is a little broad, there's plenty that you can enjoy on a slightly higher plane - Lear mistaking Kate for one of his daughters for example. There's also a pun or two that even Shakey might have cut - and he can't have cut many!

Perhaps the first half could be trimmed a little and the pace sped up to make this a 70 minutes all-through farce rather than allowing the interval to dissipate some of its energy, but there's still much to enjoy - and plenty of real laughs - in a show that makes the most of its limitations and the most of the expiration of Shakey's lawyers.

Doing Shakespeare is at the Bridewell Theatre until 13 November

Photo Shaun Chambers