Review: Shakespeare As You (Might) Like It at Rosemary Branch

Wait, what just happened?

Honestly, I have no idea how to sum up what I just saw. Shakespeare As You (Might) Like It is a mish mash of party, cabaret and game show, with bits of serious drama thrown in for good measure. After enjoying free stoops of wine and sweet treats, unsuspecting audience members are called on to read lines, ring bells and pass parcels, and are occasionally hauled on stage to join the mayhem – all whilst wearing paper hats, found inside the party bags that are handed out at the door.

The fact that every single person willingly put their hat on, though, is a testament to the infectious enthusiasm and joy of both the show and its performers. Shook Up Shakespeare’s Roseanna Morris and Helen Watkinson are a natural double act, bouncing off each other (sometimes literally) as they engage in witty banter, play energetic party games, sing Shakespeare-inspired songs (written by Shane Rutherfoord-Jones) and reenact a few of the Bard’s best loved scenes.

Shakespeare as you (might) like it, Shook Up Shakespeare

It does all get a bit manic, and even slightly alarming, from time to time, and it’s never completely clear what’s planned and what’s just ad libbed on the spot – although I suspect it’s a mixture of the two. The two actors throw absolutely everything into their performance, backed by their ‘one-man, one-wo-man’ band, who often look as bemused as the rest of us.

The show is described as a ‘Quad Centenary Wake’ and is a light-hearted tribute to the great playwright, poet and party planner that was William Shakespeare. I’m not sure what he would have made of it, but hopefully he would have been entertained – and perhaps only mildly outraged by the criticism of his poetry (which we established, through extensive research, ‘doesn’t even rhyme!’). Despite a scene that seems to suggest otherwise, these ladies clearly know their Shakespeare plays, and it’s fun to try and spot all the references to his works casually dropped in throughout the show.

If you’re a diehard fan of ‘straight Shakespeare’, these guys may not be for you; they’re unconventional, unpredictable and often very, very silly, mixing scenes from different plays with wild abandon. Equally, if you dislike audience participation, you may not feel entirely comfortable – although in reality nobody’s asked to do anything too terrifying.

But if you enjoy a bit of randomness, you fancy some light entertainment with a Shakespearean flavour, or you just like the occasional stoop of wine and ‘much ado about muffin’ (I did enjoy that one, I must admit), then they may be right up your street. This particular show ended its run at the Rosemary Branch Theatre this evening, but keep an eye on Shook Up Shakespeare to see what’s coming up next.

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