(4 / 5)
When I think of Shakespeare, the words that spring to mind are ‘funny, ‘witty’, ‘sharp dialogue’, ‘a roller-coaster journey’ and 440 Theatre certainly deliver on all of those and add a sprinkle of magic in their own unique and charismatic way.
Shakespeare is wonderful, but sometimes it can drag out a tad, with plays commonly being three hours or so. No so with 440 Theatre! They have taken something brilliant and offer the audience the highlights, with each play being just 40 (ish) minutes. Two Shakespeare plays and an interval for your ice cream in under two hours? Done and dusted!
A simple set, costumes and small cast of just four actors (Luke Thornton, Amy Roberts, Lizzie Robin and marvellously acted and directed by Dom Gee-Burch) brought us this, quite frankly, unique but highly effective take on the two well known plays. There was singing and guitar playing (a special mention to Roberts for her incredible voice and Thornton for bringing comedy gold to the songs), an abundance of wigs, a very clever use of umbrellas and gags-a-plenty, to make sure that the laughter didn’t stop. Gee-Burch was stand out in his various roles, never failing to be deliver hilarity, whether playing the friar, nurse or any one of the three weird sisters. His presence lit up the stage and he truly stole the show. His comedic genius shone through, and his timing was impeccable. Every single one of the actors gave their all and must have been exhausted by the end after maintaining such high energy and not faltering throughout.
First up, the tale of two star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet; never was a story of more woe (and hilarity, true farce and an interesting case of rigor mortis!) and who knew it was all Pat’s fault? Pat, the character Shakespeare forgot to mention (you’ll need to go along and watch 440 Theatre to see how that story unfolds).
Swiftly followed by Macbeth – very obviously the Scottish play thanks to the tartan sashes, wigs and a hint of Taggart (‘there’s been a murrrrder!’). Brilliantly acted, traitorous goings on, dancing ghosts and full of farce. I particularly enjoyed the nod to the Tesco clubcard savings. Again, Gee-Burch shone in his many parts, particularly as the three weird sisters. Thornton’s reactions to them certainly demonstrated how the natural talent of Gee-Burch continually surprises and delights, even to his fellow actors along with the audience.
This is a surprising re-telling of Shakespeare that I recommend you experience for yourself. It is full of surprising comedy moments to catch you off guard and while that was mostly really good fun, it could be a little jarring if slapstick humour is not your particular cup of poison. Watch out for each death scene being milked to the absolute, well, death!
This is an exceptionally special, hilarious, speedy tour of two of Shakespeare’s arguably greatest plays. High energy and thoroughly good fun, a must see if you love the Bard (and especially if you yearn for slightly shorter renditions of the world’s greatest literary works).
Running time: Approximately 2 hours (including 15-20 minute interval).