comedy · rogue shakespeare® · Ages 18+ · United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

world premiere
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Review by ERIK BLAIR

June 20, 2016 certified reviewer

What I liked

The Actors: Like any ACTUAL Shakespearean production, this show stands or falls on the strength of its actors—and there isn’t a single one here that is anything less than wonderful. Some of them are broader in their parody than others, but even that variance of style is actually appropriate to the Shakespeare from which it came. Bravo to all of them!

That being said, I want to point out a few stand-outs that I was particularly impressed by in moments:

  • Helena Grace Donald: Her presence and strength were exactly as they should be for her character, even as she still managed to completely skewer the idea of who she was playing. That’s a very tough thing to pull off when you’re attempting to tackle one of the toughest females Shakespeare ever put on paper. She is a sheer delight to watch in this role.
  • Lisa Lynn: Her performance seems to be that of largely “support” until a sudden turn late in the show makes it clear what she is there for—and it’s a harsh and heavy and somber interjection into the comedy. Done incorrectly, it could be jarring, unwanted or (worst of all) boring. In Lynn’s capable hands, however, it’s none of the above—instead, it’s a deftly performed moment that came across as sincere and heartfelt and somehow just as much a part of the story even with such a radically different tone.
  • Ryan J-W Smith: Yes, he’s playing the lead. But that’s not why I’m praising him. Instead, I’m going to point out how well he makes everyone ELSE on stage look. There’s a tough job in a comedy like this of being the lead and managing to be both funny yourself AND still being enough of a ‘straight man’ to allow the others (who will always be even larger characterizations than you) to play off you. Smith manages to do both with what seems like ease—and that’s a skill that should be pointed out and praised both because of its rarity and its generosity.

The Writing: Brand new writing, only vaguely inspired by the original Shakespeare, most of it completely new….and yet IN imambic pentameter. What reason here would there not be to like it plain as day? (Not the least of which is his writing is infinitely better than what I just wrote there!)

What I didn't like

My overall impression

“Come see us destroy Shakespeare’s Scottish Play!” they said. “It’s a comedic version of the play,” they promised. For days, people in kilts had been (nicely) assaulting me whenever I was trying to get to a play on Theater Row. Finally, like the indoctrination of a new cult member, I gave in and went to see this play. And I am very, very glad I did so.

Because Macdeth is an absolutely brilliant experience. From the opening audience interactive moment to its closing monologue, this is a true parody of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy. The plot, then, you know….or do you? Because this version attempts to tell the story by combining the style, form and language patterns of Shakespeare with the concepts, technology and words to today.

That’s no easy task—and yet the play pulls it off admirably. Ryan J-W Smith’s script is GREAT, a witty and fast-moving thing that seems to always be at the edge of escaping its cast and yet is actually ALWAYS within the meter and rhyme. It’s as much fun listening for how it remains on point as it is listening to what’s happening in the plot.

The acting is top-notch. Adult, with adult tones and bawdy moments and even some violence (because it’s a tragedy, of course)—but all of it designed to serve towards the goal of giving an audience a great time.

And that’s, I think the greatest compliment I can give this show—that it’s a GREAT show designed to give an audience a GREAT time. I think audiences in Shakespeare’s time would have loved it just as much (if they understood the cultural references), because that’s what Shakespeare was also doing as far as he was concerned. And this show replicates exactly what Shakespeare tried to do—give an audience a rousing amount of entertainment when they came to see his show.

Well done, indeed.

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