The Raw Shakespeare Project
Until 18 Mar 2017

Review by Paige Mulholland

Getting through three Shakespeare plays in an hour is certainly a challenge, but The Raw Shakespeare Project take a good crack at it. Though the plays are abridged to the extent that anyone not well acquainted with them might struggle to follow, those who know the source material well will enjoy this tasting platter of some of The Bard’s greatest hits.

“Shakespeare's Ménage À Trois” includes three 20-minute abridgements – “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, each one focusing on specific characters rather than trying to include the whole plot. This makes it easier to fit an entire, multi-act play into such a short space of time, but also means that key plot points are sometimes skipped, making the performances harder to follow. Seasoned Shakespeare-lovers will be able to fill in the blanks, but others may be left scratching their heads. However, in a world saturated by modernisations of Shakespeare, it was refreshing and enjoyable to see The Raw Shakespeare project often donning period clothing for their retellings, proving that a period retelling can be just as creative and just as achievable for community and low-budget theatre groups as a modernisation.

Leah Anderson was a standout, performing as Beatrice, Lady Macbeth, Puck and Quince. She was able to connect with both the comic and the tragic sides of the performance, although the abridgement of “Macbeth” didn’t really allow the audience enough time or context to really feel Lady Macbeth’s inner torment. Mark Drury and Damien White are well-matched as performers, sharing between them all the male roles in the show, and Isabella Shaw is very enjoyable to watch as Titania, Snout, the maid in “Macbeth”, Hero and Leonato, although occasionally slips a little too far into melodrama.

The ensemble do an excellent job of embracing the challenges of Brick+Mortar as a venue, turning the ramps and rails into props and keeping their lighting simple but effective. It is perplexing to see the characters facing the wall in plain to indicate they are “offstage” when there seemed to be a small screen nearby begging for them to stand behind it; particularly when performers are changing costume or fiddling with props, it is distracting to have them so clearly in view.

This show is exactly what you would expect from” Shakespeare-meets-Fringe” – stripped back, simple, a little rough around the edges but overall very entertaining. Anyone who is hungry for Shakespeare will enjoy this three-course, simple fare.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)