Not Shakespeare “as we know it”

A cabaret-style mixture of slick sketches and songs provides a modern ‘take’ on the bard in The Shakespeare Revue at the Devonshire Park Theatre.

The show, devised by Christopher Luscombe and Malcolm McKee, features scripts from comedy legends Noël Coward, Victoria Wood, Fry and Laurie, Alan Bennett and Monty Python, as well as musical contributions from Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Stiles and Drewe.

As producers Kenny Wax Ltd and Cambridge Arts Theatre claim, you don’t have to be a Shakespearean scholar to enjoy the show, which marks the playwright’s 400th anniversary – but to appreciate some of the sketches fully it helps if you are well versed in his work.

The revue is based on the original Royal Shakespeare Company production which premiered in 1994.

It achieved that proud record due to a concoction of witty gags and lyrics. But, while there’s plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour, most of the sketches are amusing rather than hilarious – and a few did not hit the mark for me.

The show gets off to a fine start with ‘Music Hall Shakespeare’, followed by another parody If You Go Down To The Vault Tonight.

Alex Scott Fairley gives a brilliant rendition of The Night I Appeared As Macbeth and Anna Stolli also provides outstanding vocals. Alex and Anna cap their fine performances by appearing in a very funny sketch on how he should deliver the word Time. There are other impressive performances from Jordan Lee Davies, Lizzie Bea and Alex Morgan. Musical director Oli Jackson backs the cast superbly, as they put Shakespearean words or references to such raucous tunes as Let’s All Go Down The Strand.

The five versatile performers further benefit from the direction of Malcolm McKee, who, as co-deviser, knows exactly how he wants his work to be interpreted. The choreography of Jenny Arnold and Nicola Keen also plays an important part, though some of the routines lacked sparkle.

However, the show should be judged mainly in the context of a light revue, which this sets out to be. It’s definitely not Shakespeare as we know it and there are no Elizabethan costumes or long drawn out monologues. By Tony Flood.