The latest comedy from MDG Players from Chandler’s Ford, and the Romsey Players combines two very British writers – William Shakespeare and Enid Blyton. Shakespeare’s works are updated and refreshed for a modern age and hilarity ensues. Want to know what happens if Theresa May decided to quote Henry V? How about if Romeo and Juliet took place in rival retirement homes?
The framing device revolves around the Famous Five discovering some Shakespeare manuscripts. I’ll admit it, despite loving the Faraway Tree series when I was younger, I don’t recall reading much Famous Five. I read some but I didn’t love them in the way I liked Faraway Tree. It says a lot about the Five’s impact on British culture that there are even parody books based on them.
Macbeth plotting to overthrow Nicola Sturgeon
Shakespeare of course needs no introduction. The sketches ranged from parodies of scenes such as Macbeth plotting to overthrow Nicola Sturgeon to become King of Scotland to reimaginings of characters. Hamlet’s visit to the Dovetail Centre is a highlight, as is the war between the retirement homes of the Capulets and Montagues.
One of the highlights of the evening is the reenactment of the Mechanicals’ play in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. This play within a play is an excuse for ridiculous slapstick and hilarious overacting. I love the utterly cliché and intentionally terrible story of Pyramus and Thisbe. This part of the play is supposed to be performed badly, as the Mechanicals are supposed to be terrible actors. As a result, they overact and forget lines to hilarious effect. Even the wall gets lines, and the script is constantly being rewritten by the Mechanicals. My favourite part is always the death scene of Pyramus.
The witches were quite … different
Another highlight is the recurring Macbeth segments. I’m quite knowledgeable of the play and it was fun reliving key moments. I love the witches, as they end up being quite… different from the usual interpretation. Instead of being wicked and devious, these witches are utterly incompetent and forgetful in that they can’t even scare Macbeth properly.
There are great Shakespearean songs from Twelfth Night and a rendition of Greensleeves, which has been around since the 16th century and is still popular. No one knows who wrote it, although Henry VIII is a likely candidate.
Here is Greensleeves sung by The King’s Singers, from the 2008 BBC Proms concert in the Royal Albert Hall London.
Would we lie to you?
I liked the interactivity of the evening. There was a quiz called Would we lie to you, which revolved around deciding if facts about Shakespeare were true. One of these questions was about how one performance involved a stagehand accidentally passing King Lear a mop, not a map. I remembered this story from a Shakespeare picture book I read when I was younger and was very happy when I got it right. That same actor also once punched a passerby in the face in order to get some fresh blood for Macbeth. That’s dedication.
Brush Up Your Shakespeare
I also like the song Brush Up Your Shakespeare, which contains lots of references to some of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays such as Troilus and Cressida, and Coriolanus. The framing device revolving around the Famous Five is also fun, with Timmy the Dog being able to speak and having a biting sense of cynicism.
Below here is a Broadway concert variant of Brush up your Shakespeare.
Overall, this was a great evening. As a fan of both Shakespeare and Enid Blyton I liked catching all the references to their works. Shakespeare has been reinterpreted so many times and it’s fun seeing him reinterpreted for a Chandler’s Ford audience.
Five Go Mad for Shakespeare is written and produced by Mike Standing and Irene Bourne, and directed by Mike Standing.
Read another review of the show by local writer Allison Symes: MDG Players and Romsey Players – Five Go Mad for Shakespeare – Review