william shakespeare

Lear's daughters . . . or Macbeth's witches . . . or three blokes in baseball boots?

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)

Birmingham Rep


WHO would have thought that Shakespeare was the inspiration for every Disney film including Frozen (A Winter’s Tale) or that his first play contained all 1, 223 characters and 37 or so plots from the subsequent plays we remember him by.

And who would have thought that this long-lost tome would have been found in a hole next to a pile of old bones in a Leicester car park.

By now you should be getting a feel for this latest offering (abridged) from the Reduced Shakespeare Company, a play which is a mish mash of everything Shakespeare ever wrote in which, for example, Lear’s daughters are three witches named after sexually transmitted diseases. We meet them as they discuss the time of their next meeting . . . as in when shall we three? Oh, do keep up at the back.

Then there is the constant battle between mischievous sprites Puck and Arial, and the love affairs between Richard III and Much Ado’s Beatrice, and his dalliance with Falstaff amid his ukulele playing and stand up – not the easiest position for him, sadly.

As usual with the RSC – this lot not the posh lot – the result is mayhem, and when Shakespeare is concerned, irreverent and at the same time affectionate - 400-odd years on, we still know many of his characters intimately and our speech would be all the poorer without his words and phrases. He's a sort of mate, and you always take the Mick out of mates.

Th RSC have never hit the heights of their original complete works of the bard – abridged of course – in subsequent productions, and moving the formulae away from Shakespeare has not always been successful – the history of comedy was very much a curate’ egg of a show, for example.

Parody, or in this case, lunacy, demands a main source with which people are at least familiar and, ideally, for which they have some fondness and Shakespeare ticks all the boxes with the bonus of a huge range of characters and plots to go at.

Thus Joseph Maudsley, Matthew Pearson and James Percy, a Birmingham School of Acting graduate incidentally, appear from behind their backcloth as anything from Cleopatra to Juliet to Bottom to Ariel - to Richard  III, Falstaff, Dromio and Dromio, Henry V, Lady Macbeth and so on . . . you get the idea.

It’s madcap, fast paced and at times very funny and back to what the RSC (both of them this time) do best, the works of William Shakespeare, in this case abridged from the original recently discovered 100 hour long play with it’s cast of 1,200 or so, to 90 minutes with a cast of three.

 Its subtle enough for (not very demanding) Shakespeare scholars yet daft enough with enough slapstick and laugh out loud moments to amuse those who know nothing of Shakespeare beyond it being an unusual name for a pub. Their best since the original. To 15-02-17

Roger Clarke


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