By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Kill Shakespeare (Stage 5 King Edward Elementary School)
“Now is the winter of Hamlet’s discontent….”
No more of that Danish brooding about dad’s ghost; no more moping around wondering whether to be or not to be. Hamlet’s on the spot in this live mash-up of Shakespeare characters in a comic book action adventure.
He’s been head-hunted by the villainous ruler Richard III, on a quest to find and kill an elusive hermit wizard, William Shakespeare, and steal his power. And at the same time, the rebel prodigals, led by that take-charge gal Juliet and life-loving Falstaff, are recruiting Hamlet as an action hero for their resistance army. They’re desperate to find Shakespeare first and save him.
Thou Art Here, an indie company devoted to taking Shakespeare to the people (instead of the other way round), has adapted the clever graphic novel series by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery for the stage. The result is a live radio play, with foley sound effects, and Erik Mortimer’s original music. In Andrew Ritchie’s production four actors stand in front of microphones against projected slides of the comic books.
The fun of this high-speed action epic is that it yanks the well-known characters out of their home plays to mingle and interact with each other. Cmon, haven’t you always wondered whether Lady Macbeth and Richard III would hit it off? After that nasty business with Othello, did the evil Iago ever have doubts? And haven’t you always been just a little curious why nobody knows anything much about Will, the world’s most mysterious superstar?
Kill Shakespeare mines a rich vein of life-and-death action, romance, treachery and betrayal from the plays. But it would just be name-dropping (name-pasting, really) if the outsized comic book versions of characters didn’t arrive in the comic book with some personal ID, so to speak, from the plays. Oscar Derkx, for example, is a convincingly conflicted, troubled Hamlet, with a noble naivete about him.
All four resourceful actors play a multitude of characters in the stage adaptation by director Ritchie and Ben Stevens (among Gianna Vacirca’s 10 assignments, is Juliet, Iago, and Shakespeare). The mix is madcap, and, in truth, the voices and accents aren’t always enough to distinguish them, especially since the latter do wander a bit. But then, you’ve got the blow-up projections — and major eyebrow acting — to assist with this.
There are battles; there are drinking songs. And for this spirited enterprise, you’re equipped with a gift bag of participation stuff, à la Rocky Horror Show, to join in. Clever and fun. Forsooth, have at it!