Review author – Elaine Burns
The familiar opening music of Strictly Come Dancing has been resounding through the theatre this week as the participants in Play in a Week have been rehearsing their Shakespearean version. It opened with a married couple settling in front of the TV to watch, (David Hatton and Patsy O’Brien) with the husband repeatedly asking to watch the football instead. Then the whole cast appeared in Elizabethan costume doing the jive.
The four judges were gloriously over the top and very funny. Jamie Bensted as Len Goodman danced a few steps and made sure he gave someone ‘seven!’..Oliver Forsyth as Craig Revel-Horwood, was spot on with his tone of voice ‘a-ma-zing’. Naomi Brown as Darcy Bussell looked the part and was elegantly emotional at every opportunity. Andrew Marber dressed as a jester and going way over the top was born to play Bruno, leaping out of his seat and loving everything especially the fairies. Daniel Galliford as Brucie used all his catchphrases in a suitably creepy manner; everyone was his favourite.
The script by Rachel Barnett was very clever at merging Shakespeare with ‘Strictly’, my favourite was when Henry V’s insults to Falstaff were taken personally by Craig. The TV show is ripe for being sent up and it certainly was, with the audience joining in by chanting all the catchphrases.
Memorable couples included Romeo and Juliet (Yves Roudaut and Zena Rose) slowly dancing to ‘Kissing You’ from Baz Luhrmnn’s film, beautifully sung by Luke Tye. As the dance ended they died, of course along with all the other couples.
Richard Watson as Henry V danced solo to Mars from the Planet Suite while on video the cast spoke a line each from Henry’s Agincourt speech.
The Mechanicals from Midsummer Night’s Dream plus some very badly behaved fairies, partly on film for the special effects, were hilarious. The dance routine had it all, a wall, the lovers, a distraught Thisbe, a roaring lion and an ass. Mathew James sang a spirited version of ‘where the bee sucks’ as accompaniment.
Shakespeare himself (Giles Walker) and his Dark Lady danced while Luke Tye sang Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Sonnet 29’. A very difficult song but handled well by Luke. Meanwhile Annie Brennand Roper was a feisty and stroppy Dark Lady.
A final very moving moment came when Puck’s speech ‘if we shadows hath offended’ was presented with great intensity as single lines on a flip chart. The audience were asked to hold up their tea lights while the glitter ball was lit to send light spinning around the auditorium. Magical.
Congratulations to everyone from the director Brandon to the ladies making tea. There was so much in this show that I haven’t been able to mention everything or even every person on the stage. What came across so strongly was the sheer joy and energy of everyone involved in any way.