This is a copy of the original review - the link takes you through to the reviews hub website - The Incomplete Works of Shakespeare - Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot - The Reviews Hub
The audience are greeted by the actors and live music as they enter the Sir Ken Dodd Garden a fabulous outdoor performance space set within the grounds of Shakespeare North. This pre-show is but a taster of what is to come. The space is simply set up with various costumes, musical instruments, props, wigs and weapons.
The company of fours actors all members of Shakespeare’s acting troop ‘The Kings Men’ (The reality is a combination of the teams behind The Rubbish Shakespeare Company and Wing It Impro & Stories) take to the stage ready to perform William Shakespeare’s latest play, but William fails to show, reportedly delayed in Leicester as he has a taste for the cheese. Without a script what are they to do?
The company decide to proceed – they tell us ‘We are going to wing it and hope we don’t create rubbish Shakespeare’ (a nod to each company name). And this is where the audience help as they provide the suggestions from which a new play will be made. With these bare bones, our play is set.
What emerges over the next 70 minutes is quite brilliant and delightfully bonkers. We watch scenes of arranged marriage, death, evil, feuding families, murder, revenge and unrequited love. All themes which have been used in various ways by the bard himself. It is quite clear these actors understand the tropes and structure of Shakespeare and as such you feel safe in their hands as they improvise a brand-new play in this instance ‘The Beautiful, Lovely Woman of Verona’ or ‘As you Will’ titled by a member of the audience.
The lovely woman of Verona is played by Robert Rhys Bond – she is hosting a masked ball, masked because there is a plague. The mad and evil mayor of Verona played by Lee Hithersay plans to scupper the event because, as he reminds us, he is Evil. The subplot is that young Patricio played by Ryan Byrne is having doubts about his arranged marriage to Susan a plan to unite their warring families. And finally, we have the Russian princess played by Mark Smith who having seen the portrait of the mad mayor has ridden thousands of miles to seek his hand and fall in love. This is a tragedy and of course, love never runs smoothly in this case it ends with death and the rats of Verona feasting upon the corpses of the dead.
Each member of the hilarious ensemble is comfortable in creating prose and verse spontaneously, this is made to look effortless. The use of live music and sound effects creates an additional layer which is impressive and certainly takes the frivolity to another level when comparing it to other impro groups of this nature.
Although the story being presented may have been a tragedy, tonight’s entertainment was extremely funny – the audience at various points roaring with laughter. The subtle and playful interactions with the audience were nicely judged and ensured we felt included throughout. Imagine, mixing Monty Python, Blackadder and The Mighty Boosh together and then getting them to perform Shakespeare, this would be the result.
The Incomplete Works of Shakespeare is a brilliant, bold, and very funny evening’s entertainment. It may be aimed at a family audience – but trust me, you don’t need a child to enjoy this!
This is copied from the website this link takes you through to the original - The Incomplete Works of Shakespeare - Shakespeare North Playhouse - North West End UK
I was very excited to visit the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot, being from Liverpool and usually having to travel down to Stratford – upon- Avon or London to see these fine performances. It is such a joy to have this on my doorstep. The building is on the original site of the Shakespearean theatre that was originally built by Richard Harrington from 1597-1603. This rebuild was under the Prescot 1597 Project and was funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund. A great opportunity to have a modern building on the grounds of such a prestigious site.
Today the theatre was presenting the “incomplete works” in the small outdoor theatre known as the Sir Ken Dodd Memorial Gardens and again this felt very fitting, as I was a great fan of this wonderful Liverpudlian comedian. The garden was an arena of stone steps that portrayed an embedded photo of Ken and his lovey sayings, and these steps lay bare to an open area that was prepared with wigs and costumes as the audience entered the area.
The play was performed by four very talented cast members Mark Smith, Ran Byrne, Lee Hithersay and Rob Bond, who equally demonstrated their awesome skills and creativity to ad-lib and improvise with ease and myth.
Although the bright summer afternoon some became cold and windy, the change in temperature did not dampen the spirits of the cast or the audience who filled the small outdoor area. The cast intermingled with the audience and playing drums and a mandolin, soon welcomed us to their unique show.
Although cold, the audience were soon clapping, laughing and cheering along with the cast and when the cast announced that William Shakespeare “Bill” was stuck in Leicester and could not join them the four members turned to the audience for ideas on what their uncompleted works were to be based upon.
Given the challenging tasks that were offered by the tantalising audience – “midnight”, “2,000 years B.C”. and “who has taken by tangerines?”, the four were unperturbed at the task that lay before them and rightly so, as the four were “on it”- constantly changing accents, costumes and guises in a non-stop turmoil of myth, laughter and tomfoolery that had the audience ‘in stiches’ laughing.
Their references to St Helens, The Wirral and Rock ferry made this a very local play, and this enamoured them to all who were there. Amazingly, the plot did cover all suggestions requested and after an hour of mayhem the uncompleted works of Shakespeare was completed.
The audience loved it and interacted enthusiastically and so did the four men- experts of improvisation, who I could imagine were very proud of their comical achievement.
The play is on again on Sunday 18th September at 1pm and at 3pm.
It’s a real family fun-filled afternoon for families of all ages.
Reviewer Jan Mellor
Reviewed: 17th September 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★
I met online (via zoom) with journalist Vicky Anderson. Vicky has been a long time supporter of improv within Liverpool. We discussed numerous things improv, past, present and future. The long read also interviews numerous other improvisors who are based in the city. It is a great read - LONG READ: The story of Liverpool improv — Made Up: (onstageinliverpool.com)