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Budding Rose Productions presents NetherBard | Review

Budding Rose Productions presents NetherBard
Budding Rose Productions presents NetherBard

“They All Die!” yell the synopses of the main Shakespeare plays given in the programme of NetherBard, an intriguing exploration of what can happen by not committing to putting on a production solidly faithful to the original text. Just by pointing out the tragedy of the works referred to in the show, it reveals something about theatre – in the live experience, there’s a curtain call. The actors playing the characters can be seen taking a bow and receiving the applause from the audience, and in that moment, one is reminded that what the audience has just seen is a stage show.

NetherBard incorporates a number of storylines from the Shakespeare canon convincingly, with a contemporary plot involving young and ambitious actresses who are, to varying degrees, envious of the success of Abby (Lucinda Turner), who just so happens to demonstrate considerable stage presence and an aura of authority when delivering her lines. Reasons are given in the dialogue as to why she has found herself playing high-profile roles. The other three characters, Kate (Rosemary Berkon), Lena (Katrina Allen) and Amy (Tayla Kenyon), have their own motivations and desires for doing Shakespeare on stage – for one of them, it’s a stepping stone (as far as they are concerned) to a career in television.

There is, thankfully, no prior knowledge of the likes of Macbeth or King Lear in order to understand what goes on, though I would argue some of the punchlines are better understood by those with some familiarity with the Bard. There’s a ‘modern section’ to the Shakespeare production the ladies are performing in – I’m not sure what to make of what was sampled. To me, it came across as an attempt to sound like the hip-hop beats in Hamilton, but not quite hitting the spot.

Highly compelling performances, plot twists and a comedic streak throughout come together to produce a slick and engaging production. More than the usual dose of suspension of disbelief is required on occasion. Amy is aiming for a part in the BBC Television soap EastEnders – there’s a link to be made, I suppose, between the backstabbings of Albert Square and the knifings of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Lena, meanwhile, seems unable, or unwilling, or both, to think of little else (in terms of acting roles) than Shakespeare plays. No wonder she feels frustrated about the lack of opportunities for women to demonstrate the sort of acting a well-developed leading role.

Like Glenda Jackson before her, Abby performs the title character in King Lear. But rather than cheer her on, Amy appears nonchalant, while Lena engages Abby in one-upmanship, or rather one-upwomanship. This isn’t the first play to incorporate several Shakespeare plays into a one-act production, and it most likely won’t be the last. This one succeeds inasmuch as it doesn’t try to cram as many Bard references as it can get away with, even if those sorts of shows are enjoyable for those who love their Shakespeare. Here, rightly, less is more. There are some – not many, but some – giveaway clues in Greg Spong’s set, and some plot twists that are introduced even in the closing moments of the performance helped maintain a slick momentum from start to finish. A pleasant and
vibrant production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Four Women, The Bard and a Cardboard Cauldron. Budding Rose Productions presents the whirlwind ride that is Janice Hallett’s ‘NetherBard’. This wild, female-led comedy explores Shakespeare’s favourite subjects; ambition, envy and revenge. The battle for centre stage goes beyond the rehearsal room as three actresses find themselves banished to ‘NetherBard’, destined to play Abbey’s understudies throughout the entirety of Shakespeare’s cannon. Along the way,
they get to deliver some of Shakespeare’s best male speeches, with female voices. NetherBard questions what happens when women refuse to play the roles prescribed for them – on stage and in life.

King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry V… the list goes on. Experience a variety of Shakespeare’s best work in one show. Kate, Lena and Amy have been cast as the witches of Macbeth, but they’re not happy with their ensemble roles. In between rehearsals, they find time to curse Abbey, who has snatched the role of leading lady, as well as Lena’s love interest and Amy’s dream role in Eastenders.

Budding Rose Productions kicked off their first run of NetherBard at the Hen & Chickens Theatre last year (November 2017). A sold out run left the company keen to release the show again, this time bigger and better than before.

Running time 65 Minutes
Twitter @BuddingRoseProd

Age recommendation 15+
Writer Janice Hallett
Director Rosie Snell
Set Designer Greg Spong
Lighting and Sound Designer Tom Kingdon
Prop Designer Alesya Bolotina
Performers Katrina Allen
Tayla Kenyon
Rosemary Berkon
Lucinda Turner

Show Dates
Sun 2nd – Thurs 6th September 2018
Theatre N16
5 Ashley Rd, London N17 9LJ


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