I went to the Dovetail Centre on 19th April to see Five Go Mad for Shakespeare. Being fond of the Famous Five stories by Enid Blyton and, much later on, the Bard of Avon, this was a production which had my name on it in a manner of speaking. This is my take on the show following on from Ben Williams’ excellent summary.
Many thanks to the MDG Players for the programme and game cards.
I hope the pictures below give some idea of the fun that was had by all at this lovely evening at the Dovetail Centre. The only reason I couldn’t take pictures nearer to the stage was the show was a sell out and I was towards the back! Having said that, I can take some consolation in knowing I didn’t annoy the actors or any other members of the audience by taking some photos, not from where I was! But, as mentioned, these do give a general idea.
The Romsey players also took part with their “play within a play”, one of the Bard’s renowned plot devices. (He was also fond of mistaken identities and women pretending to be men, though the fact women weren’t allowed on the stage until much later on may have contributed to that being a necessary plot line).
Spoofs, facts, and serious acting
The MDG show was a lovely mixture of spoofs, facts, and serious acting. I also loved the Famous Five being left scripts and a note by their Uncle Quentin to stage a show as entertainment for their guests at Dick’s birthday party. Naturally the audience were the guests.
I have very fond memories of Enid Blyton’s creation as I read the majority of her Famous Five series when growing up and I also watched some of the old Southern TV adaptations of the series. The only reason I didn’t watch more was that Southern lost their franchise and TVS came in. End of series, rather abruptly!
For those not au fait with the series, the Five were brothers and sister, Julian, Dick and Anne, along with their cousin, tomboy George and her dog, Timmy. They had a series of adventures and all long before the advent of the mobile phone!
This is important as some stories hinged on being able to get a message to the right person at the right time. Easy now perhaps, thanks to technology, but not so much then. Funnily enough, there is a link with the Bard here given the plot of Romeo and Juliet hinges on a letter getting to the right person in time.
The MDG players treated a packed house to songs, sketches, famous scenes from Shakespeare (including the gravediggers’ scene from Hamlet – very much a case of “alas, poor Yorrick”!), a game with the audience based on the TV show Would I Lie to You?, and all items were linked by the Famous Five sharing what would be coming up next.
The sketches were excellent, none of the audience got all the questions in the game completely right, and the Macbeth scenes proved just what a nasty piece of work Lady Macbeth is! Well done on some great acting here.
Brush up Your Shakespeare
As for the singing, the voices were all fantastic. The highlight for me was Cole Porter’s Brush Up Your Shakespeare, as I’ve only heard parts of this before. it was a real treat to hear it in full. The word play in this song is magnificent and it was performed with gusto, just as it should be. The clip below is taken from the Proms a year or so ago and is good fun. I make no apology for using the same clip as Ben Williams did, this is such a superb performance, it definitely deserves another airing here.
Timmy the dog had a speaking role
I also enjoyed Timmy the dog being given a speaking role – it wasn’t just woof! He went into some detail about the rest of the Five never taking his feelings into account and that it was usually him who got them out of trouble! All true… (Everyone knows dogs can be clever!).
Timmy also revealed he wasn’t the original Timmy. Apparently he’d been replaced as he aged and went into honourable retirement! Naturally all of the replacements, and there were a few, kept the “stage” name!
What Enid Blyton would make of that I don’t know, but there is a little nod to children’s TV programme Blue Peter here. The first dog on that show, Petra, died unexpectedly not long after the series first went on air back in the 1950s. Rather than upset the young audience, the dog was replaced with a similar one and took the same name. The story only emerged many years later.
I liked the mix of funny items and acting the MDG and Romsey players treated us to. What came across really well was the sheer breadth of Shakespeare’s creative genius.
We’ve all seen better days but it was the Bard who gave us that expression. Good riddance is another and from Hamlet comes you’ve got to be cruel to be kind, which is one of my favourite Nick Lowe tracks too.
So an evening of entertainment and education then! The production played to a packed house though we were in the Dovetail lounge rather than the church. The audience were enthusiastic and there was plenty of laughs.
According to the Bard himself, you can have too much of a good thing, but the audience loved the show. Ultimately the Bard would’ve appreciated that! I’m just not so sure about Enid Blyton!
“The fair city of Chandler’s Ford”
Like Ben I enjoyed Romeo and Juliet with the rivalry being between the two care homes our heroes lived in. There were several references to “the fair city of Chandler’s Ford”. Yes, I know but you needed something to replace “the fair city of Verona”. The truth of “the sprawling commuter town of Chandler’s Ford” just wouldn’t have the same ring!
Oh and it was news to me Hamlet ever had trouble ordering anything from a cafe but according to the MDG Players he did!
The spoofs were pitched at the right level and performed with tongues firmly in cheek. Now I had hoped that phrase would also have been one of Shakespeare’s as that would wrap this piece up beautifully, but alas no such luck. We have Sir Walter Scott to thank for bringing this into usage.
My hearty congratulations and thanks go to all of the actors and piano player, Joy, for such wonderful entertainment.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.