New take on the classics in Silly Songs of Shakespeare at South Hill ParkBy Caroline Cook
February 22, 2013
When Shakespeare wrote the famous ‘to be or not to be’ speech he probably didn’t imagine it being performed as part of a musical Hamlet mash-up.
Nor would he have pictured Romeo and Juliet as a rap battle between the Montague massive and the Capulet crew.
But New Old Friends theatre company has given the Bard a shake-up with comedy show Silly Songs from Shakespeare.
“We were regularly performing sketches at cabaret nights, and Macbeth the musical was one of our most popular,” says company manager Heather Westwell.
“So when we were approached by Theatre Royal Bath to pitch a Shakespeare show, we pitched an entire evening of funny songs about Shakespeare. The alliterative ‘silly’ came later.”
Being fans of Shakespeare, Heather and her husband Feargus had some knowledge of his work, but they confess to brushing up on his back catalogue to create the show.
“We had read a few but we have to admit to checking out quite a lot of online facts and synopses to double check we knew the plots,” says Heather.
“We were Shakespeare fans but not at school and we didn’t really get into it until we started seeing it live – it’s the best way to experience Shakespeare.”
And so a show of Shakespeare-based frivolity was born, with Feargus and the Sonnettes singing their way through the Bard’s comedies and tragedies.
“With Romeo and Juliet, the two warring houses seemed to fit a rap battle,” says Heather.
“For others, we just thought about what would be a good fit, so King Lear became a blues number in the style of BB King.”
New Old Friends has taken the show on tour this spring, throwing in a few new songs for good measure.
“Bard Romance is the newest song and covers a lot of Shakespeare’s jilted lovers, along with a glee-style mash up of pop songs,” says Heather. “Audiences have fun spotting all the songs and characters. Also Othello is great fun to perform, it’s just so ridiculous. There are sombreros and fake moustaches and a little bit of flamenco dancing!”
Although the show is packed with references to the Bard’s work, Heather says you don’t have to be a Shakespeare buff to enjoy it.
“We have had a lot of feedback from people who were unsure about seeing a Shakespeare show but have come out saying they could now have a conversation about Shakespeare down the pub,” she says.
“If you are a Shakespeare fan though there are loads of references in there for you to spot. People have said to us they want to watch it a second time just to catch all the gags.”
With their mascot Beneduck in tow, the company will be arriving at South Hill Park next week for a night of Shakespeare plays like you’ve never seen them before.