I don’t know about you, but I have always found Shakespeare a little tough going. All those ‘doth’s’ and ‘wherefore’s’ and ‘art thou’s’. All that murder and dying, and swooning and marriage and then murder again. The crying, the swaying, the yelling. And all in a language I don’t understand.
On the other hand, I do secretly enjoy that the small sense of superiority one obtains from being able to casually say, “oh last night? I just went to see some Shakespeare — fabulous production. Very moving”.
The answer to this curious dilemma, being my inability to understand ye-old English and my desire to appear culturally sophisticated to unsuspecting audiences, may just lie in CW Productions & Straylight Australia’s double bill: Shakespeare’s Queens and The Madness of King Lear, currently showing at West End’s Arts Theatre.
Direct from the Edinburgh Festival this is Shakespeare with a twist. A unique interpretation of some well known classics that would have traditionalists gasping into their handkerchiefs, and the rest of the audience laughing through the madness.
The first of the billing, Straylight Australia’s Shakespeare’s Queens, is a delightful 60 minute romp through the corridors of power — from the perspective of the three biggest celebs of the Tudor dynasty: Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and Shakespeare himself. Covering nineteen queens from seventeen plays in one hour, by the end you’ll feel truly justified in your claim that you’re pretty au fait with the Bard.
The Queen to reign all Queens, Elizabeth I is played by Australian Kath Perry. Not dissimilar in appearance from our very own prime minister in residence, the play’s exploration of “what it means to be Queen” in Shakespeare’s England may be curiously topical to the discerning viewer.
Queen’s is followed by The Madness of King Lear, performed by Aussie actors Leofric Kingsford-Smith and Lucas R. Tsolakian. Taking inspiration from the traditional Elizabethan acting style of physical exaggeration, this interpretation is a madcap playful look at a Shakespearian classic.
Double Bill’s two interpretations of the genius of Shakespeare are united by their theatricality and their strong themes — of thwarted ambitions, revenge and, perhaps most timely in the Jubilee year, succession.
Promising a delightful night out and a short-cut to cultural superiority, this is Shakespeare for the masses. Accessible and enjoyable.
CW Productions & Straylight Australia’s Shakespeare’s Queens and the Madness of King Lear is showing at the Arts Theatre until 3 November. Visit www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk for information and tickets.