Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here
by Jarek Zaba
Let me begin with a confession – I am no connoisseur of Shakespeare. Honestly speaking, I had to consult the Wikipedia synopses for Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew in order to provide the analyses herewith. Such a confession should be sufficient for you to immediately dismiss my pretentions of being someone capable of reviewing theatre shows, but bear with me here.
The first thing the pages teach me is that they are both comedies, and so the confirmation that I was correct to laugh throughout each piece is a relief. But it becomes clear from reading on that I was laughing often not for the reasons Shakespare intended. The Taming of the Shrew, it turns out, is not originally set in an obscure area of Essex where Italian names are commonplace, and nor is the character Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing intended to be portrayed by a monkey hand puppet. Every day remains a school day.
byMoonlight Theatre’s modern take on The Taming is a refreshing, enjoyable and accessible piece of theatre. Although it sticks largely to the text (as far as I can tell), the dialogue is interspersed with a few surprising moments – a Beyoncé track here, a Cockney utterance there – and so you can never be quite sure in which direction you are headed. In addition to the unShakesperian acting and musical moments, the setting is what defines this unique piece of theatre – Bianca is now a hooped-earring platform shoe wearing chavette, Kate the tracksuit-laden older sister. This is not a mere vacuous attempt to target the ‘Facebook generation’ – for me, it is a shrewd observation that Shakespeare’s text translates handsomely into this setting, as each character slots perfectly into his or her new Essex representation.
I cannot conclude whether byMoonlight make a real effort to address the misogyny debate which surrounds the text, but as someone who wasn’t aware of the misogyny debate before clicking the link just provided, perhaps I’m not the one to make such assertions. However a review from someone who probably knows what they’re talking about is available here.
Conventional byMoonlight’s production it is not, yet Hattie Thomas’ 45 minute one-woman adaptation of Much Ado – entitled Beatrice on Fire – is unconventional further. Shakespeare’s comedy was clearly not intended to be relayed through the medium of one person and one person only, yet our host performs admirably. Shakespeare’s tale is told by one of the three personas – Beatrice – that Thomas assumes, complemented by the confident and charismatic Hattie and the excessively anxious and nervous Millie. With a jovial and light-hearted start to the show, the latter moments in which we explore the deeper inner thoughts of Hattie’s alter ego are as unexpected as they are poignant. As ‘Beatrice’ enacts the Much Ado story using a combination of puppets, stationery and items of clothing, the piece lurches wildly between the farcical and the deeply touching, ensuring the 45 minutes whizz by, leaving the audience with a combination of a smile and tears come the conclusion.
If you are a fan of Big Will, or someone who despises his every line, either of these productions will have something for you.