Touring – reviewed at Hope Street Theatre, Liverpool
Rubbish Shakespeare Company squeezes the Bard’s tragic romance into a family-friendly hour of farce in this knowingly silly production. It’s a no-frills show, to say the least and the cast mines the tiny budget for laughs, from opening credits hand-written on sheets of A4 to comically ratty wigs.
It’s is a frenetic 60 minutes of fourth wall-breaking, slightly improvised, lovingly ludicrous action that drags the audience along for an enjoyably daft ride. The ratio of Shakespearean verse to company shenanigans is probably around the 40-60 mark. And to confidently mess with the formula to such an extent hints they might just know what they’re doing – although you get the impression this particular RSC would never say so.
The all-male cast of four – including Lee Hithersay, Clem Studholm and Alex McDonald – dress in basic coloured t-shirts, welcome the audience on arrival and play exaggerated versions of themselves as well as their allocated parts in the play – constantly breaking character for asides to the crowd. They are a team that works well together, clearly enjoying the mix of storytelling and silliness; “excuse me, we’re a step up from panto”, they declare with mock indignation, immediately after setting up a classic ‘it’s behind you’ gag.
Audience participation from children, while not required, certainly helps to shape the performance. On this occasion, the youngsters in the audience gave as good as they got, with no shortage of volunteers to assist with proceedings.
There’s the feeling this show could be a bit different every performance. But in the meantime, if the Muppet Show did Shakespeare with a big dollop.of kid-friendly sass, you might end up with something like this Romeo & Juliet.