How To Survive Being In A Shakespeare Play
Things we loved
- Some joyful, Bard-inspired moments of fun
- I'll never think of an asp in the same way again
- Excellent costume choices
Things we would reconsider
- Such great potential and more time would lead to even more deeply-grounded performances - of that I'm sure
My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse! Never before has this iconic Shakespearean quote been treated to such horseplay as happens in How To Survive Being In A Shakespeare Play by Don Zolidis.
If fact, much of the Bard’s work is trampled on and teased about as our narrators (Milly Willcox and Ashlee Rawson) guide would-be actors through different methods for dodging the deathly fate that awaits their doomed characters in Shakespearean tragedies.
We learn, with much hilarity, that if your character carries the name of the play and it is subtitled as a tragedy, then you need to keep your wits about you and pay close attention to warnings from old women, young, women, and a host of other characters with soothsayer qualities, including animals. Which brings us back to ‘that horse’.
In one of many comedic and absurdist moments, a rather smart horse (Marsha Zabanias) clarifies that our diminutive Richard III (Sedrah Isa) has just promised his kingdom in return for a horse, before offering her ride to the monarch and then claiming his lands.
By the time we reach that scene with a talking horse, we’ve already been subjected to a procession of characters awakening to their fateful plights and scrambling to avoid death on stage.
Some examples of enlightenment include Cesar (Marcus Murdoch) actually heeding warnings about the Ides of March and donning protection that repels his would-be assasins to their own deaths. Another has a Harry and Meghan-like Hamlet (Byron Jeffery) and Ophelia (Lily Williams) deciding to forego royalty and move to Canada, with Williams adding some extra Markle sparkle with a North American accent.
Another memorable scene involved a soldier (Billy Rowan) becoming aware that in the play, Henry V, Henry (Callum Logan) doesn’t die but the soldiers do. What follows is a joyful arc of awareness that this soldier follows as he edges out of harm’s way.
The narrators held the show together well, while the rest of the cast juggled numerous roles in what must surely have been a chaotic backstage area amid numerous costume and character changes. By the way, the costumes were magnificently matched to this production.
As with it’s partner performance, it was heartening to hear a cast of actors able to project, even if some projected at a level suitable for a much larger auditorium. Nevertheless, this is a skill that will serve them and their audiences well for many years to come.
While we didn’t always get the full contrast between overly-confectioned Shakespearean delivery and modern-day patter, we got it enough throughout the play to keep the audience ‘in’ on the hacks being employed.
This is a challenging play and hats off to director, Alicia Zorkovic, for challenging her young Wings2Fly cast to embrace this work and gift their audiences with some knowing laughs that I’m sure the Bard would have enjoyed, although he might have been miffed by the searing criticism of The Winter’s Tale.