EFR - Reviews of Death by Shakespeare

Death by Shakespeare

Fri 2nd – Sat 10th August 2013

reviews

Amber Segal

at 04:14 on 4th Aug 2013

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Part of a full and receptive audience, I was met outside the theatre doors by two Elizabethan-clad maidens who summoned us in with snappy Shakespearean dialogue. Inside, the young Hurly Burly troupe put together stylised physical theatre representations of a selection of Shakespeare death scenes, from Romeo and Juliet to Pyramus and Thisbe.

The overture that opened the show was smooth and engaging considering the number of manoeuvres it involved, and in general the show followed suit. The physical and musical aspects of the performance were well executed, imaginative and fluid, while the deliveries of the cleverly cut-and-paste speeches were effective, if a little overemphasised in places.

Out of the ensemble cast came a genuinely terrifying and melodramatic Lady Macbeth played by Ellie Judge. The Macduff (Dave Hewer) scene in particular was subtle, eerie and upsetting, doing justice to one of the most horrible moments in all of Shakespeare.

Not all were as touching, however, and I felt confused by some of the choices, which resulted in blurred characterisation and loss of meaning. Although hilarious in its own right, I found the Pyramus and Thisbe scene less successful as it did not bring anything new to the already humorous writing. The audience’s laughter was drowned out by that of the cast’s which was off-putting to me. On the other hand, the two actors (Jason Pallari, Alife Cunningham) were adept at slapstick and made a good duo. Ophelia’s section was more interesting; her state of mind being represented by two actresses speaking in unison.

Personally, I could have done without the frequent references to the 'power of the audience' and had a purely immersive piece. But this did seem to be embraced by everyone else, and created an atmosphere of 16th Century entertainment outside of Shakespeare’s words, which was also contributed to by the singing and instruments.

Overall, the performance seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by all, and the ambition and originality was impressive. All the cast had a good grasp of the difficult lines and tight delivery, especially in chorus. The quick switches between genre and vast scope of the show made it an experience to remember.

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Rose Bonsier

at 10:46 on 4th Aug 2013

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Slickly put together and very well-rehearsed, Death by Shakespeare is a retelling of some of the most famous and dramatic deaths the playwright ever brought to the stage. Using physical theatre, the cast moved as a chorus with key characters emerging from the group to depict death in Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Whilst the style of the piece is that of a typical school drama performance, it is none the less a remarkable achievement. The young cast were absolutely word perfect throughout, and their delivery of lines was both convincingly Shakespearean and engaging for the audience. I was greatly impressed with the way every one of the actors held authority and presence on the stage and, most importantly, they clearly had a huge amount of passion for their work and a deep understanding of the characters and scenes they were playing.

The additional use of choral song as well as choral movement was very effective. The group managed some impressive sequences which at points crossed over into the medium of dance but were carried off with fluidity and confidence. The lifting of Ophelia was something that worked really well, and was executed with swiftness and skill by the actors involved. I also particularly liked the tableau at the start of the play, with the actors spread across the floor depicting different characters, although this did cause some confusion as audience members tried to navigate their way through them.

This piece had potential to be very heavy and a little overbearing but this was managed well by the interlude of comical death taken from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A special mention should go to Jason Pallari for his performance as Pyramus, which caused much hilarity throughout the audience.

The seriousness, however, was never lost throughout, and overall the whole cast maintained a stylized but subtle mode of performance.

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