Unfortunately, a communication problem at the venue led to this show starting while the bulk of the audience still waited for the house to open. The missing beginning apparently involves the scholarly character in this two-hander speaking the words of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, with that leading into his problems in gaining the interest of women, during which point those of us queuing outside were allowed in. The actor handled this influx well, showing a flair for rapid, yet clear, speech before being interrupted by a knock on the door and the intrusion of William Shakespeare on a mission to confound the devil and trick him of his due. Said due is the suspicion that surrounds Shakespeare’s authorship.
Thus commences a humorous look at claims that the Works of Shakespeare were penned by another, with possible candidates such as Christopher Marlowe, Edward de Vere, Francis Bacon and even Queen Elizabeth herself. The actors both have a certain charm and are quick-witted in improvisation, dealing with technical difficulties with good humour, and there is a surprising and rather strange appeal to a Shakespeare played along the lines of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. There is also, though, a distinct feel of students playing to mates. With a solid script this could still be a good show, but without that, we are left with a piece that might entertain to satisfaction on the free fringe where audiences choose what money they care to donate but is thin material here.
The main problem lies in lack of editing and concerted effort in the writing. The show’s publicity states that “Witty bardic banter abounds as [the characters] delve into a satirical analysis of Shakespeare’s greatest mysteries and misconceptions.” However, while at times there are signs of interesting writing, much repetition and very weak arguments undermine this. For instance, that Marlowe died before a number of Shakespeare’s works were written is repeated over and over again and stated as the complete refutation of any claims that he wrote the works. Absolutely no mention is made of the fundamental argument by those that support Marlowe as author that his much publicised death was faked. The claims for other possible authors are also barely covered or with equal lack of proper consideration.
Humorous elements that do work in the writing, decent comedy skills in performance and some informative facts – mostly crammed into the pre-Shakespeare section – provide some entertainment, but this Shakespeare the Brit needs more sound argument, character development and detailed polish to be truly a welcome visitor. It is also 15 minutes shorter than advertised, which just seems another sign that ’Tis I, Shakespeare the Brit is an interesting idea not properly developed.
By Danielle Farrow
3 – 29 August, 12:50 (13:00) @ C eca