Sorry readers, while the underlying concept behind this show is fascinating and the excellent cast gave their all, this production felt quite flat and in need of some reworking.
Part of this years’ Sydney Fringe, written by Paul Wilson and Tim Ferguson and directed by Pete Malicki , the premise of the show has Shakespeare is alive and well and working today.
The performance we see is a TV interview with him- it’s Shakespeare’s first TV interview- along with his arch rival Francis Bacon. We have at last the opportunity to obtain answers to some burning questions that have kept us guessing for centuries such as:- Are the plays really his plays? What is the true nature of his relationship with his wife Anne? Why after years of writing comedies and romances has he turned to writing tragedies?
In some ways the show is a bit like a ‘Reduced Shakespeare’ production, presented here as short soundbytes from a television show. The feel is very contemporary with the use of electric guitars, mobiles, ipads, Twitter and so on…Shakespeare aficionados will also pick up references to Will Kemp , Christopher Marlowe, Jack Horner amongst others.
Tall, dark and bearded Damien Carr portrayed William Shakespeare very sympathetically, casually dressed in a torn leather jacket and black top and trousers, and with a dazzling smile. His portrayal came across as a bit bad boy Keith Richards like.
He is put through the emotional wringer during the interview. We learn about his background, his relationship with his glover father and his work processes:– how he approaches writing a play etc. His portrayal of women is also questioned. There is a big fuss at one point about a notebook (possibly his father’s), and the question arises as to why his father has never come to see any of his shows…
There is searing intense grief – Carr handles the monologue terrifically when discussing the death of his son Hamnet.
I do have to ask the question, why on Earth during the play is there a scene which has Shakespeare carrying a knife around with him and then on national television take the knife out and clean his shoes with it?!
Bacon is wonderfully played by Calib James and is portrayed as arrogant, opinionated and self centered. He is dressed in a a marvelous quasi ‘’Elizabethan ‘ black velvet top ( should one say ‘doublet ? ‘) with slashed sleeves and maroon coloured trousers.
The sparring matches that take place between Bacon and Shakespeare are intense. It is obvious that the antagonism stretches back for years. Yet for some reason Bacon helps Shakespeare out with suggesting the phrase ‘to be or not to be’ whilst Shakespeare had been struggling with ‘to live or not to live’.
Dark haired Martina Fleur who is the TV show hostess/emcee who asks probing questions was delightfully played by Rosemary Ghazi, wearing a slinky blue dress featuring a side split.
We see her nervous before the show begins and her interactions with the stage manager – a lot rides on the ratings of this show! And she brings it to great success with excellent ratings.
’The Duke’, enthusiastically portrayed by Patrick Cullen, is the show’s warm up person/stand up comedian/singer but his running commentary and bad jokes generally fall flat. It is interesting the way that he is allowed to interact and comment on the show whilst the show is ‘live to air ‘and he is ‘off stage’ so to speak. Surely, in reality, this possibility would never occur. He also acts as narrator at the end telling us what happens to the various characters.
Summing up, impressive performances in an interesting but rather disappointing show that needs more work.
Running time an hour without interval.
SHAKESPEARE TONIGHT is playing at the New Theatre as part of the Sydney Fringe until the 19th September.