By Danielle Farrow
The Fringe institution that is Shakespeare for Breakfast always proves entertaining fare. On a barren set, likely to have but one item (a table this year), with just music, apt costume and a few props for staging, this annual event provides Shakespeare-based comedy in the form of topical devised scripts or – frequent in recent years – some fresh presentation of one of the plays. The latter is offered for 2013, with Taming of the Shrew, a tale in which Petruchio weds Katerina (known as Kate the Curst), and then finds ways to change her from a harridan, whom no-one can deal with, to a humble wife, who sets a fine example to others. There is also a side plot revolving around Kate’s sister Bianca and the antics of her suitors.
In this production, the younger royals are cast as the main characters. Hence we have Prince William as Petruchio, visiting his brother Harry Hortensio in Vegas and looking to wive it wealthily with Kate Middleton, while Harry and another toff try to woo her sister Pippa Bianca, she of the renowned behind. The integration of the royals in this way is handled with a certain aptness and wit, so that, somewhat surprisingly, the conceit works well, with William’s servant Grumio an aide who deals with public appearances and security, and the royal baby also featuring. There is plenty of slapstick and other physical clowning, and early brazen humour was gleefully welcomed by the audience. There are also some fine performance ideas, such as why Kate doesn’t speak up when her forceful suitor lies to her father (saying she’s agreed to the marriage) and those moments that allow a glimpse in Petruchio’s words of what could be real issues for Prince William.
However, as the actress playing Kate started to come more into her own from the wedding on, the production hit a sticky patch, started to fall flat and the fresh approach and energy of the earlier part fizzled out, leaving an ending that, while it had its own mannered amusements, was fairly weak. Overall, there was little real audience interaction – only once, early on, was a member of the audience involved slightly – and usually those are highlights in Shakespeare for Breakfast. While not advocating being fed the same dish every year, if such a device is used once, as it was, it sets up an expectation of style that should then be met again, which it was not.
So, while this year’s Shakespeare for Breakfast doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of many predecessors, it does provide a right royal romp, presented with some gusto, and, of course, coffee and croissants. (Though get there early to be sure the coffee hasn’t run out!)