THE SHAKESPEARE SHOW
Monster Theatre, Havana Theatre, until October 27th
My Two Cents
If you’re suffering from the post-Fringe blues, never fear - Monster Theatre revives its celebrated production of Ryan Gladstone’s The Shakespeare Show. It’s a zany, fast-paced romp through Elizabethan England, where you’ll meet dozens of characters (most of them played by Tara Travis) and narrated by the Bard of Avon himself, William Shakespeare (Ryan Gladstone, who also plays a handful of others).
The Shakespeare Show subscribes to the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship, maintaining that Edward de Vere, Earl Of Oxford, was the true writer of Shakespeare’s plays. Gladstone portrays Shakespeare as a dim-witted, illiterate horse-holder. His naturalistic feel to the character compliments Travis’s grandiloquent presence onstage, holding court as Oxford, Richard Burbage and, yes, Queen Elizabeth I herself. Gladstone and Travis have an excellent rapport. They support and enhance each other’s performances, having a great time and inviting us along for the ride. Travis is a local treasure - her characterizations are specific and all-encompassing. Each role she plays has a different voice, facial expression and physicality, and she switches between them with a swift mastery that has to be seen to be believed.
Gladstone’s script is not only hilarious, but he’s also clearly done his homework. Every line is clever; references and tropes abound, and the jokes whizz by at such a breakneck speed it’s impossible to catch them all. A knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays will aid in the appreciation of The Shakespeare Show, but even a passing familiarity will ensure your delight. An homage to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which Gladstone portrays all three witches, is played to delightfully comedic effect. The minimal use of props combined with an excellent sound design make for some of the most imaginative swordplay you could ever hope to see.
The only disappointment is that the show itself is short (no doubt the by-product of it having long ago been a Fringe show). However, with all the energy and gusto supplied by the Travis and Gladstone, the quality makes up for the quantity. I urge you not to miss these two masters of their genre, doing what they do best, irreverently celebrating the Bard, whoever he may have been.