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Interview with Malcolm McKee – The Shakespeare Revue

The Shakespeare RevueThe Shakespeare Revue, a comic concoction of hilarious sketches and show-stopping numbers written by comedy icons Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett, Maureen Lipman, Monty Python, Noël Coward, Cole Porter, Fry & Laurie and musical theatre favourites, Stephen Sondheim, Stiles & Drewe and many more, returns to the stage with a UK tour as part of the nationwide celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The production will be at Richmond Theatre from Monday 7th November to Saturday 12th November 2016.

With contributions from over forty writers, this joyous words-and-music celebration gathers together some of the finest comic material inspired by William Shakespeare. Originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Shakespeare Revue first premiered at the Barbican Theatre in 1994 where it received raptuous critical and public acclaim prompting a West End transfer to the Vaudeville Theatre in 1995. Since then the show has played off-Broadway and has completed five major tours of the USA.

Devised by Christopher Luscombe (director of the 2016 Best New Comedy Award winner Nell Gwynn starring Gemma Arterton) and Malcolm McKee, The Shakespeare Revue is directed by Malcolm McKee with choreography by Jenny Arnold and Nicola Keen and musical direction by Malcolm McKee.

Musical Director Malcolm McKee recently took time out to answer a few questions about the production.

Q: What can you tell us about The Shakespeare Revue?
Malcolm: The Shakespeare Revue is a wonderfully light-hearted evening packed with funny songs and sketches inspired by the Bard. This is a feel-good evening of classic revue with contributions from a host of famous writers and composers: Noël Coward, Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, Monty Python, Sandy Wilson, Tom Lehrer and many more. In addition, there are bang up-to- date pieces from the cream of British comedy including Victoria Wood, Fry & Laurie, Alan Bennett and Ned Sherrin; plus specially commissioned songs and sketches by Maureen Lipman, Fascinating Aïda and Olivier Award-winners Stiles and Drewe. The Shakespeare Revue was originally produced by the RSC and had a hugely successful West End run. Since then the show has played Off-Broadway, done five US tours and travelled the world, from Sydney to San Francisco, delighting audiences and receiving rave reviews.

Q: Originally devised by Christopher Luscombe and yourself for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1994. How does this version compare?
Malcolm: This version is very similar to the RSC version. However, we have totally refreshed the show with new songs and also updated the script with a smattering of topical references to Donald Trump, The Bake Off, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Kathryn Jenkins and many other satirical targets.

Q: What can you tell us about being on tour with the production?
Malcolm: It’s great to be back on tour again playing wonderful theatres such as Bath and Richmond where The Shakespeare Revue played twenty years ago on its first post-West End tour. Touring shows are the real life blood of theatre in this country and it’s a pleasure and privilege to part of that unique, creative circuit.

Q: How do British provincial audiences compare to the West End and the US with the show?
Malcolm: Audiences on this tour have been absolutely wonderful. They start laughing about half a minute into the show and then they never stop for two hours. I would say that there is hardly any difference between audiences whether they be in the provinces, the West End or the States. There is a remarkably consistent response from all our audiences; the lines which get big laughs in Guildford also get guffaws in New York and Los Angeles.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being MD of this production?
Malcolm: It was initially very strange, having been the director of the show, then to step across the footlights (we do use actual footlights!) and sit at the piano. The thing I most enjoy is watching our terrific, young cast tackle the songs and sketches with such skill and confidence. Revue is a very exacting art so it gives me great pleasure to hear our talented quartet playing with and responding to the audience. Even after doing hundreds of performances over the years I still laugh at the jokes (or rather laugh at the audiences laughing at the jokes!) and enjoy playing all this wonderful music in such diverse array of styles.

Q: What do you want theatregoers to take away from an evening watching the show?
Malcolm: I want theatregoers to be transported for two hours into the glamorous world of revue where as well as the laughs coming thick and fast, there are touching songs and big emotional ballads. I also want audiences to realise that they know more about Shakespeare’s plays that they realise. Everyone knows that Hamlet was a man in black tights who talked to a skull and that Macbeth met three witches on a heath. If you know that then you will have a great evening in the theatre laughing at the knock-out humour and enjoying the show-stopping songs.

Q: Why should everyone get along to see The Shakespeare Revue?
Malcolm: This is a totally accessible, unacademic show and you don’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar to enjoy the songs and sketches. Classic ‘Revue’ is a comparative rarity these days so I want audiences to revel in the sheer, fast-paced variety of the revue format – if you don’t like one particular item then don’t worry, there will be another one along in about three minutes. The Shakespeare Revue is two hours of sparkling wit, sensational song and dance and, above all, fun, fun, fun!

Shakespeare Revue
Richmond Theatre
The Green, Richmond, TW9 1QJ
Mon 7 – Sat 12 November 2016: 7.30pm
Sat and Wed Matinee: 2.30pm


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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