Review: Shakespeare Scrapbook 2

Shakespeare Scrapbook
Image credit: Ruby Douglass

With its minimal use of lighting changes and sub-par dialogue, this admirably unconventional take on Shakespeare is unashamedly aware of its sole strength: its cast. Aptly titled but with little to commend it except its cast’s skill, Shakespeare’s Scrapbook 2 is an eclectic mix of sketches based on Shakespeare’s life and works. The dialogue and staging were generally lacking, and the lighting unsubtle and poorly thought through, but the audience loved every moment because none of that matters when you have the kind of talent on display that SC2 offers.

But as much as I admire the talent of the actors – and a very special shoutout is owed to Amelia Hills, who killed every one of her scenes and demonstrated range that one rarely sees in amateur theatre – it was more a disjointed parade of talent than a cohesively curated set of sketches. I understand that your actors can sing and tell jokes, but some scene choices (for example an unnecessarily emotional death scene included purely, it seems, in order to invite a very intelligent discussion on badly written female characters) did not fit the production’s general tone and ended up disrupting the easy laughter that filled the theatre throughout the rest of the show.

Just as jarring was the inability of the writers to conclude scenes without lazy physical comedy. Perhaps it is a general reflection of the quality of the writing that one of the funniest comments came from an audience member, so much so that I, along with my viewing companion, questioned whether this person was a plant. Plant or not, you don’t want a single throwaway line to outdo perhaps everything else except your discussion of under-developed female characters, the intelligence of which almost made up for the above mentioned tone deaf death scene.

SC2 is an avowedly political show with pertinent, if somewhat on-the-nose, commentary on both current affairs and longer-standing social ills. Curious was the Graham character, who was included as a Shakespearean fool without really offering the comedic relief one expects from such a figure. Considering the brilliant commentary on underdeveloped female characters, I was hoping the show would interrogate, or at least more fully realise the comedic potential of, the ‘Shakespearean fool’ figure. Ideally, it would do so by more than allowing him to survive the seemingly endless group death scene at the end (the writers also seem incapable of concluding a play without somewhat lazy physical comedy).

Despite all of this, the show is more than worth a watch, especially if you are looking for light comedic relief that has the added bonus of making you feel more intelligent than your friends back home as the show makes use of only better known Shakespearean works, perhaps in order to complement the lacklustre nature of the rest of the production (except, of course, the acting).

6/10

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