Tuesday 23 June 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Doing Shakespeare - The Northern Comedy Theatre Company online

We’ve learnt one thing from this pandemic. The 21st century equivalent of The Globe Theatre turned out to be Zoom, where quite literally anyone from anywhere in the world could have watched this performance. Everyone had the best seat in the house. No more complaints from the groundlings.

The Northern Comedy Theatre Company played The Felching Players; the actors played various actors playing numerous characters from a smorgasbord of William Shakespeare plays, in a virtual comedy play written, not by Shakespeare, but by David Spicer. Get it? Basically, all the world’s a computer screen. The performers have their exits and their entrances: logging in and logging off.
The thespians strut and fret their hour (well 45 minutes) upon a web-conferencing platform, and are heard no more. A tale told by tremendous idiots, full of digital sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The Felching Players were supposed to come together to presenteth their online digital Shakespeare festival to the world. Where did it all go wrong? Tragically, each actor had learnt a different script but they carried on like the professionals they were attempting to be, creating a piece of discombobulating but trailblazing piece of performance art.

Bravo to the whole ensemble for doing a brilliantly bad job at butchering Shakespeare. The exaggerated performances and enlarged gestures were both typically stylistic and for this production, comedic. The backstage bickering was boisterously funny and the relationships between the cast members were well established. Good comedy timing was shown from everyone too. Considering this was not a traditional live theatre experience, they made the whole thing amusing and run like clockwork.

Though this be madness, there is method in it. It wasn’t all fatuous, Spicer asked, what do people want in theatre? Why do we perform shows? What is great acting? Which Shakespeare play is the best? It was about the trials and tribulations of running a theatre company and on the other side of the coin, the jubilant community spirit experienced by all. This wasn’t just a play performed on Zoom, the production used Zoom creatively. I liked the running gags but my favorite joke: The Fetching Players’ woeful production - based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel about the First World War and with an animal as the lead – called, “War Cow”. Let’s moove on apace.

For my epilogue, I shall state this production was most agreeable and had me chuckling frequently. The young cast have a bright future ahead of them. For their next performance, they might ask: to do or not to do Shakespeare, that is the question? Whatever the philosophical answer to this existential question, I’ll be sure to look out for their next spectacle.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 22/6/20

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