Original article - EdFringe: Improvised Rubbish Shakespeare - The Incomplete Works - At The Theatre
I confess I have watched this show before in an early outing in Liverpool in 2022 and I was already a fan. I was curious to see what the new cast would bring and hence my trip from Glasgow to the Edinburgh fringe. I am pleased to say that Improvised Rubbish Shakespeare – The Incomplete works is as good as I remember, if not better. This is indeed praise as I had previously rated it five stars in my previous review.
The work is very funny, clever and played throughout with a cheeky glint in the players eyes. The premise is that the company of players are here to perform William Shakespeare’s latest play ‘Cardenio’ – for those who are Bard fans you will know this one of his lost plays. The Bard does not arrive, and the players are left without the text from which to perform. Earlier in the pre-show a member of the audience is bestowed a crown and becomes King James – not a fan of Shakespeare or his work and thus the players must entertain the King or face execution.
Led by Shakespeare’s finest actor Lee Hithersay the company gather a few key ingredients from which they then create a brand-new Shakespeare play. What takes place over the next hour is phenomenal as we meet multiple characters, plots twists and off the cuff humour which would put many a comedy script writer to shame. Set in Glasgow – our play opens with a prologue delivered by the impressive Alexander McDonald who sets up our tale of the tyrant Duke Chris a man who is determined to repress his people, he is immediately booed by the audience.
We meet a lovelorn Prince played by the physically funny Kirst Heitmann who is seeking a bride, a pair of geriatric pirates who reminisce of former glories and are up for one final ‘Pillage’. The watchman played by Robert Bond whose keen eye observes all, and expertly ties many of the threads of the story together. As with much of Shakespeare there are deaths a plenty in this play the mother of Duke Chris has her head removed which means he is finally free of her constant pecking.
Improvised Rubbish Shakespeare – The Incomplete Works is highly skilled; each member of the hilarious ensemble is comfortable in creating both prose and verse spontaneously. They make this look effortless. The use of live music and sound effects provided by the gifted guitarist Danny Bradley aka ‘Duke Box’ creates an impressive additional layer which is seldom seen when comparing it to other work of this nature. I would liken the show to ‘Horrible Histories’ with a dash of the ‘Young Ones’ anarchy, I highly recommend that you catch this show if you can. Conceived and directed by Mark Smith this co-production between Rubbish Shakespeare Company and Wing it Impro is a triumph of improvised theatre.
Image: Andrew AB
Recently we tested a new score in front of a live audience for the classic Horror film Nosferatu. This was a prototype to see if this is something that could be developed into a full-length piece of work. The feedback has been positive from audiences as you can see below.
I thought the performance was brilliant! Danny was incredible - the way he used his whole body to interact with the instruments and move around the stage. I found his playing so captivating; I kept forgetting to watch the film! It was funny, engaging, energetic, enchanting. I loved the use of props; the quill writing was fun, added a nice theatrical addition. The rat was really funny. The music was beautiful; so clever!!! My only sadness is that it ended! (Anonymous, 2023)
The experience of a live score was something that people had not experienced before, and it was clear that this film was one that folk were not familiar with. The reason for testing with a free event and seeking anonymous feedback is something that I have been undertaking recently. It allows audiences to watch with no vested financial interest, I believe this elicits feedback which is a true reflection of their experience i.e., people can be honest. They also if they enjoyed it have great ideas from which we can either build upon or not. Development of small-scale performance is tricky, one; venues have very little money or space to put on work, two; when they do they need to know that there is a demand for such an experience and finally that the work is ready for the public. Most new work takes time to develop and ensuring the audience is part of this experience is key to building something that people want.
We have taken on board the feedback and now we will build towards a final draft in 2024.
Last week the first festival took place at our host venue and supporter the Unity theatre, Liverpool.
The anecdotal feedback has been extremely positive and this gives me great hope in the model that we tested in this pilot event. We hosted 12 shows from artists / companies / teams from across the region as well as four workshops.
The plan was always to host a cross section of the improvisation community and this seems anecdotally to have been a strength of the festival and something we will continue to build upon and develop further. I am open to feedback as I know there are a number of areas to develop for the future. Throughout the two days I was taking notes and will act on these as well as the feedback from audiences and visiting artists and companies. I will share a full report (June) and response as we move forward, transparency is key and if I got something wrong I will act on this to ensure the best possible experience for everyone.
From the outset my driving desire was to place improvisation into a theatre and thus profiling the talent that exists across the region. Secondly was for companies and artists to benefit financially, each company was on a guarantee to ensure that it covered their expenses. If they surpassed this they then took the full box office (worth 70%) the host venue took the rest - I am pleased to say that every single company achieved this. Finally, the work to be documented and shared to and for the wider community.
I think we achieved the start of something and I thank those companies and artists who said 'yes and' and to the participants (workshops), artists, companies and teams I am very grateful for your faith and support.
This has personally been a huge undertaking - I have invested a huge amount of time and money in organising this first festival single handedly. This is not sustainable for the future and thus I will need some support (volunteers) who have expertise in marketing, social media, logistics as liaising with the Unity, press, artists and trying to market the festival has taken its toll. Please feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org if you can spare some time to lift up and grow your community.
Peace and love
'Talk to the Hand is playful puppetry with an improv twist