Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Much ado about Shakespeare

Hall Green Little Theatre


IF SHAKESPEARE had never lived then not only would our stage and cinema be much the poorer, so would our language.

We all know of West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), Kiss Me Kate (The Taming of the Shrew) and The Boys from Syracuse (Comedy of Errors) but let's not forget The Manchurian Candidate, based on Hamlet, Men of Respect (Macbeth) and 10 Things I hate about You (The Taming of the Shrew . . . again).

Then there is the cult science fiction movie Forbidden Planet based on King Lear and even The Lion King draws on Hamlet and Macbeth and the list goes on. . and on.

As for language, hardly a sentence goes by without some debt to the bard whether it is strange bedfellows, pomp and circumstance, full circle, method in the madness or just plain old salad days.

It may be all Greek to you, but then all the glisters is not gold in a brave new world where you may be eaten out of house and home but never a borrower nor a lender be as you remember all our yesterdays, more in sorrow than in anger, before we shuffle off this mortal coil as we consider some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

All first coined by Shakespeare who even gets into the world of pop; Sweets for my Sweet has its origins in Lady Macbeth's sweets to the sweet reference to funeral flowers.

Yet we know very little about Shakespeare apart from his legacy and hglt in this production try to explain some of the gaps in review style using the techniques of the theatre of the 15th century, with actors reading lines from rolls of paper – the origin of today's roles on the stage.

It takes a large cast, 20 in all conducted by Roy Palmer, one of the SIX directors, acting as MC.

Jean Wilde, left and Jaz Davison who directed and appeared on the production with their rolls . . .

This was a production, devised by hglt's Jean Wilde, Patrick Ryan and Roy Palmer, which should have been on earlier in the season but a wave of cast illness led to cancelation until next year, but now the same fate, and sadly a death, has hit the scheduled production, Traveler in the dark, so hglt's homage to the bard was brought back at three week's notice - cue black coffee and midnight oil . . . stage left.

In truth the result is a bit of a curate's egg - that one is from a 19th century Punch cartoon, not Shakespeare incidentally - and I do wonder if Shakespeare can be broken into bite size chunks.

It is a bit like a series of jokes or sketches without punch lines, speeches and scenes taken out of context, rather like a classical or operatic greatest hits album. We don't see the relationship with the whole. Mind you it does not help that our history up to Shakespeare's time made the despots and dictators of the modern world look like amateurs, with murders of rivals by the score and coups for the crown a regular event; life in court could be violet and short with more plots than a 12 acre field of allotments.

So a section on The Weeping Queens, covering Richard II, Henry IV (Parts I and II) Henry V, Henry VI (I, II and III) and Richard III had a lot of weeping, and a lot of queens as we moved through the Plantagenets, through the houses of York and Lancaster, with swords a swinging, to the Tudors. Not easy to follow but well done never the less.

There were other snatches of Shakespeare set to themes such as Love's Labour's Won, which could be a missing play, or just another name for Love's Labour's Lost or even a sequel, or it could be another name for The Taming of the Shrew or, according to one theory, an earlier name for Troilus and Cressida. That clear?

Hglt speculated it could even have been lost in a copyright dispute with a leading actor who left The Lord Chamberlain's men, Shakespeare's company, taking the play with him. Then again it could just be that no one wanted to publish it.


We learned other things as well such as there had been a version of Hamlet in Texan, with a line dancing chorus and even found out that Ian Flynn, hglt's publicity officer, is fluent in Japanese while Patrick Ryan, another of the actor/directors, can speak Russian, both displaying their talents in versions of Romeo and Juliet.

And speaking of Russian it is remarkable how sexy Shakespeare can sound in a genuine Russian accent thanks to Aleksandra Everitt.

The production even compared Shakespeare to Steven Spielberg in that both have produced a large body of work despite not being experts in many, or even any of their subjects. Even in his own time Shakespeare was seen as an upstart for his lack of the university education enjoyed by other writers and his lack of learning is often used today to cast doubt on the authenticity of his plays. It was a valid and clever comparison by hglt's writers..

It seems unfair to single out individuals but Dan Beaton, last seen in The Cherry Orchard gave a good account of himself as both Hamlet and Iago and stalwarts Jaz Davison and Jean Wilde put in a solid shift as did some of the youngsters coming through such as Lucy Poulson and Rachel Louise Pickard.

Ara Sotoudeh made an amusing Launce from Two Gentleman of Verona with Dan Beaton as his dog and, although It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue Jean Wilde gave us a rounded finale with Rosalind's teasing epilogue from As You like It.

As for the rest . . . all the world's a stage and as every dog will have its day, the bit of the world in Hall Green's studio, to give the devil his due, showed the cast as a tower of strength ending the night with spotless reputations but you can have too much of a good thing so it all had to end sometime. All Shakespeare's own words again incidentally.

The end saw a punk Hamlet as an encore, after a warning about strong language, heralding a sort of F****** Gordon F****** Ramsay F****** version,  which perhaps served to prove that our favourite four letter epithet, is perhaps the most flexible word in the English language showing it can be used in both active and passive modes as an exclamation, verb, adjective, noun and even adverb with a bit of imagination - it worls f***ingly well.

It can also be used as punctuation as well as a sort of hyphen to break up syllables which is fan f***ing tastic.. It can even make a complete sentence as in the Virgin Soldiers with the classic line telling us that the  f***ing f***ers f***ed.- and we all knew immediately what was meant. 

The punk version ended, as does Hamlet, with a stage full of dead bodies. The sketch didn't float my f****** boat as one might say, but the hard working cast, a manic three weeks behind them, seemed to enjoyed it in a show that had had much to enjoy. To 23-06-12

Roger Clarke

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