The Shakespeare Conspiracy is a an interesting piece of theatre. For me, a cross between Russell T. Davies’ Torchwood, Pirandello’s 6 Characters in Search of an Author, The Never Ending Story, Ground Hog Day and the complete works of William Shakespeare – perfect for the well-educated, sci-fi theatre geek! (me!)
Set in the present, the audience arrives to an open dressed set; blood red theatrical curtains, a set full of “Wanted” posters alluding to a private investigator’s office.
Classical music plays, the lights come up on Martin Shakespeare (Andrew London), a depressed travel agent who is trying to get over his failed relationships. Enter Valentino Mercutio (Will Bryant). Dressed in latex, this overtly sexual character lures our protagonist into the world of scintillation, champagne-fuelled hedonistic behaviour coupled with Shakespearean prose. For me this sets up the piece – allowing those who are well-versed in Shakespeare’s masterpieces to smugly smile to themselves that they get the “in jokes”.
The beautifully staged death of Valentino Mercutio (Bryant)’ slain by a dumb Tybalt (Danny Solomon), sets up the rest of the production perfectly, allowing the audience to recognise the blurred lines between character, actor and the craft of acting! A concept the theatrical has been debating for decades with questions such as ” should we break the Fourth Wall”, “is method acting acceptable” “is that actor really acting or just playing a version of themselves on stage”.
The production is beautifully staged using many of the Shakespearean stock characters and routines (sword fighting, soliloquies, double agents, confused love stories, allegorical plots, tight prose and beautifully spoken iambic pentameter) juxtaposed with modern twists, colloquial references and modern dress: Jules Capulet dressed in chunky knit cardigans, talk of Facebook and the use of mobile phones.
For me there were 5 stellar performers who shone beautifully: the enigmatic portrayal of Shakespeare’s most evil character Iago (who secretly I championed throughout) played by the show’s playwright Andrew Shepherd; the perfectly cast Beatrice (Libby Evans) and Benedick (Jack Baldwin) whose crisp sharp dialogue slipping in and out of Twelfth Night text and modern insults kept me on my toes and smiling throughout. They really do have the best parts in the play! Or so the text tells us! Lee White – who plays a perfectly cast troubled and villainous Edmund from King Lear – crazed eyes and a hint of Captain Jack Sparrow about him as we meet him in the “Self Help Group for recovering villains”. Finally Valentine Mercutio played by Will Bryant – whose guy-liner, latex outfit and base humour really do make the audience laugh out loud.
One-to-watch-whilst-playing-Shakespeare- Bingo: giving yourself a point every time you recognise a reference to the Bard (whoever he was!)
Review by Faye Stockley
Saturday 10th November 2012