Midsummer Madness

The cast of Midsummer Madness
Photo credit: Shook Up Shakespeare

How can I begin to describe Shook Up Shakespeare? Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin! Some of the Bard’s finest words & characters are all brought together by a common theme, then shaken up & given a splash of the 21st century. It really is Shakespeare as you’ve never seen it before!

Midsummer Madness commemorates the quad centenary of Shakespeare’s death, in the form of an upbeat ‘wake’. Yes, there are gift bags, sweets & party games aplenty. And, somehow, there is also a lot of Shakespeare! This show is themed around love, and features some well-known characters embroiled in Shakespearean romance: Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), Olivia (Twelfth Night), Portia (The Merchant of Venice), Adriana (The Comedy of Errors) & the Fairy Queen (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), to name but a few.

Phoebe Rhodes in Midsummer Madness
Photo credit: Shook Up Shakespeare

Rather than traditional costumes, the cast of five are all colour-coded – from their tops to their trainers. Even their seats match their own particular hue! It’s an extremely vibrant affair.

There is an occasional change in the lighting, to reflect a change of mood or focus – it’s particularly lovely towards the end when some fairy lights on the back wall are turned on. This neatly ties in with Puck’s closing speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to end the show.

Be warned: there is an element of interactivity to some parts of it. Though it’s not at all aggressive, and the cast create such a friendly atmosphere that you don’t mind joining in. These parts are scattered throughout the show, so there is plenty of time to sit back & watch rather than being worried about being picked on all the time.

Melissa Vaughan in Midsummer Madness
Photo credit: Shook Up Shakespeare

The cast of five are extremely confident and consistently hilarious. It’s remarkable that such a coherent & entertaining show has been put together from scraps of different Shakespeare plays – even more remarkable still that it is performed to such a high standard, without missing a beat! Genevieve Berkeley-Steele impresses very early on, reciting a rhyme that brings together Shakespeare’s entire canon, whilst Melissa Vaughan & Phoebe Rhodes show great stamina & memory going head-to-head as Hermia & Helena, performing some dialogue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream but alternating at the whim of an audience member with a bell. Madelyn Smedley is hysterical as she relates how she thinks Shakespeare can read her mind, and Elizabeth Menabney easily wins over the audience with her 30-second monologue during the ‘Star Crossed Lovers’ dating game.

The group also perform a parody of Cell Block Tango (from Chicago), which is bizarre but somehow really works…

If you’re looking for ‘proper’ Shakespeare, then this probably isn’t for you. If, however, you like the work of Shakespeare but enjoy something a bit different every now & again, then you absolutely must give this a try. It could actually serve as a fun introduction to the Bard, or even convert you if you’ve previously been put off… And as the show only runs for approximately an hour (above a pub, no less) you really can’t go wrong!

The cast of Midsummer Madness
Photo credit: Shook Up Shakespeare

My verdict? A fast-paced blend of some of Shakespeare’s greatest hits, confidently brought to life & guaranteed to entertain.

Rating: 4*

Midsummer Madness runs at the Rosemary  Branch Theatre until 19 June 2016. Tickets are available online and on the door.

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