Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Shakespeare’s Best Bits ****


With plays & characters from William Shakespeare
By Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Observatory Gate, until March 12, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
I reviewed the production on Jan 2, before opening night, with the director's permission. KH

 L-R Clockwise_ Mark Dickinson Andrew Hondromatidis Kevin Hopkins Hugh Sexton Antony Rive Scott Jackson

In the hands of a bunch of clever clowns, Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies quickly transform into madcap comedies that include Macbeth riding a wooden horse, King Lear as a rap song and Hamlet as Masterchef.

In Glenn Elston’s outdoor production, Shakespeare’s Best Bits, the clownish tradesmen from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – known as The Mechanicals – annihilate the Bard’s tragedies and histories in their riotous search for a play to perform for the Duke’s wedding.

With fine comic timing and delivery, hilarious characters, witty dialogue and direct engagement with the delighted audience, the cast of six rollicks through parodies of a parade of Shakespeare’s works.

Quince the carpenter (Kevin Hopkins) leads the buffoons in a parody of an actor’s warm up that precedes their hilariously idiotic rehearsals.

Macbeth is first to suffer these indignities with Flute the bellows-mender (Antony Rive) draped in tartan and gabbling in a shonky Scots accent while galloping around the stage on a hobbyhorse.

Accompanying him is the nearly naked Bottom the weaver (Andrew 'Hondo' Hondromatidis) playing a yellow bearded Banquo who sports a furry, orange g-string that brings new meaning to the name Bottom and new joy to ‘bad’ acting.

Bottom hauls two unsuspecting volunteers on stage to assist with the entire Wars of the Roses series of plays, skipping those stories with too few murders.

Meanwhile, the seemingly dim-witted Snug the joiner (Mark Dickinson) interjects with beautifully delivered speeches including simple but compelling excerpts from Henry IV’s ‘Once more unto the breech’ and Richard III’s ‘Now is the winter of our discontent.’

Tom Snout’s (Scott Jackson) interpretive dance company performs an achingly funny version of Romeo and Juliet with clumsy, balletic pirouettes and a shadow-screen death scene.

They tackle Antony and Cleopatra in the style of a Vegas floorshow with Robin Starveling the tailor (Hugh Sexton) as a weirdly feminine Cleopatra in drag, Jackson as a smug, Wayne Newton-style club singer and Hondromitadis as a strutting Antony.

A highlight is Hondromitadis and Hopkins performing the King Lear Hip-Hop rap song that wittily tells the tale of the old king and cunningly incorporates quotes from the Fool’s speeches.

You don’t need to know all the Bard’s plays to enjoy Shakespeare’s Best Bits because it a comic romp performed by a talented cast of actors who inject the tragedies with hilarity and stupidity.

By Kate Herbert 

No comments:

Post a Comment