Unlike anything you’ve seen before, but with familiar rings of the Bard’s own work, Shake It Up use audience suggestions and prompts to come up with an entirely improvised Shakespeare-esque play!
There is little to be said here other than sheer praise for the troupe and their quick wit, charm, and knack for communicating in Shakespeare’s classic Jacobean style. Though expectations were lowered when, during the introductions, Shakespeare’s apparently well-known (though actually non-existent) Henry IV Part 3 was mentioned, the cast quickly quelled any concerns with their fantastic engagement with the audience and brilliant performance. Indeed, this Shakespeare snob was put in her place as it became apparent that this group of actors had exactly the knowledge required to achieve this ridiculous and fun premise.
It is no surprise that James Dart is also the artistic director of this company – he commands the stage with ease, improvising quick and clever call-backs to plot-points or audience prompts, and it is clear that he’s found his (admittedly rather niche) calling! Edward Kaye delights in over-the-top villainy and does a wonderful job of taking prompts to the extreme, much to the raucous laughter of the whole auditorium. Joe Prestwich is a clear master of the improvised rhyming couplet (a necessary staple of the closing of any Shakespearean scene!) and James Alston manages to weave his seemingly vast general knowledge – or perhaps just that of Japan – into clever scene-setting and characterisation.
There were perhaps a few times where a little more audience influence would have made for an even more impressive and exciting performance (though in fairness that evening’s audience were somewhat reserved!); and once every performer can match Dart’s energy, understanding of the genre, and improvisation skills – this should be read as no slight to the others, he really is that good – Shake It Up will have the very brightest of futures!
The true test will be seeing if future performances really are as unique as they claim to be – perhaps the only way to find out is to go again!
Not here for long, so catch it while you can at The Turbine Theatre until 4th November.
Review: Penny Lane