By Danielle Farrow
It’s 10am and yet the theatre is packed, a testament to a show in its 23rd year which draws fringe regulars multiple times due to experience and new visitors, in for a treat, via word of mouth. There is also the lure of coffee and a croissant, but it is Shakespeare for Breakfast itself which has become a Fringe institution. Every year C theatre presents a different piece playing with Shakespeare’s works, and this year we visit Shakespeareland, where heroes and villains of various plays have been living side by side in an uneasy truce. Now, though, a plot is afoot, and a newly washed-ashore visitor – who just happens to wind up a girl disguised as a boy – is key to it.
Along with gender disguise and shipwreck, other classic Shakespearean elements are ‘lovingly spoofed’, including soliloquies, eavesdropping and difficult romances, in a script that uses a lot of Shakespeare’s lines. In this way, plays other than those represented on stage by a specific character still find their way in, and there are also little pieces of information and explanation to help anyone unfamiliar with the Bard of Avon and his ways, slipped in via the vehicle of the visitor. It is clear that the creators of this production have a sound understanding of Shakespeare, with entertaining and passable made-up Shakespearean in the script – all of which is highly accessible – and that the actors have paid attention to real Shakespearean language, amusing the audience as it enters before the play begins. There were a few grammatical slip ups – most surprisingly in an actual quote, where a faux Shakespearean ‘ist’ somehow wound up in ‘frailty, thy name is woman’ – but all credit to the Breakfasters for having only a few of these that this keen-eared Shakespeare fan noted. Truly, such language skills are exceptional for made-up Shakespeare.
Entertainment is the foundation of S4B (as it has become known to many), and plenty is supplied, for this year’s well written script is full of wit, more farcical humour and a great deal of comedy which you don’t have to know anything about Shakespeare to enjoy. It is, though, a joyful celebration of the Bard, achieved with no set and basic, yet clear, costuming and sound, though one section, using mikes, was neither as clear nor its delivery as accomplished as the rest. The pace moves along pretty well, the staging works for this space – where the audience are on three sides – and the audience area itself is put to entertaining use.
2014’s Shakespeare for Breakfast is not only very funny, it is well-thought out and cleverly based on Shakespeare’s language and ideas, while layered to serve those with and without prior knowledge. It is performed by an ensemble of players who work well together and whose acting is of a good standard, pitched perfectly for the entertainment S4B provides so well.
Booking ahead is advised for this delightful treat!
Shakespeare for Breakfast is on 30 July – 25 August (not 12 Aug.), 10:00 (10:55) @ C, Chambers Street