Evangeline Henry has greatness thrust upon her as she earnestly watches UCLU Comedy Club’s Shakespeare Gone Wilde.
Shakespeare Gone Wilde is a practically seamless melange of two well-known plays, William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The characters go so well together that, with no previous knowledge of either play, you might think the Shakespearean characters of Viola and Sebastian were written alongside Wilde’s Lady Bracknell and Algernon Moncrieff. Although not necessary, merely a basic or limited background knowledge of the two works could help make this play an even more comical and enjoyable experience.
The play opens with the actors reciting Shakespeare’s English in front of a contemporary London skyline, including the Millennium Wheel and Ye Olde Gherkin which does not fail to make the audience chuckle. The set comes to life in the form of the actors dressed as trees and holding little cardboard cars – something which is both charming and nostalgic. The set and props are so inventive that they serve as an addition to the comedic value on offer. Alys Robinson, Production Manager, told us, ‘It was the hardest dress rehearsal I’ve ever done because it’s nigh on impossible to move a fireplace when you’re doubled over with laughter’ and now I can certainly understand why.
A (semi) original play, it is riddled with sharp lines and ingeniously mixes the plots of the aforementioned plays. Ruby Martin (who plays Viola as well as being co-writer and co-director) describes it as ‘classic literature meeting the Mighty Boosh, or literary sacrilege with more puppets’. A particularly exquisite moment is the narrator’s pre-interval rant – it’s worth going to see Shakespeare Gone Wilde solely for that. It is an intelligent and current script that will have you clutching your sides. There is even a third Ernest to add to the raucous confusion and make things more exciting.
Although there were a couple of mistakes, these were easily hidden by the laughter of the audience while the witty writing and perfect comic timing made up for it. Ruby Martin’s extraordinary collection of facial expressions are hilarious and wonderful – she plays an awkward, ditsy, but determined Viola excellently. Both Adam Johnson and Alec Brown-Ash, who played Jack and Algernon respectively, were delightfully earnest in their roles. As for the narrator, Yanni Van der Pant, she is simply great.
It’s a silly play, but it’s fun – a good dose of comic relief to distract you from end of term essay writing and post-graduation planning. Parts that particularly stand out are the trumpets announcing Lady Bracknell’s entrance, Viola dressed as an actual present and the tiny bee puppets.
The actors are funny, the writing is funny, and even the set is funny. Whether you are in need of some light relief or just want to see something slightly different, go and see Shakespeare Gone Wilde and perhaps you’ll also find out why it’s so difficult to move a fireplace while giggling.
Shakespeare Gone Wilde is on at the Bloomsbury studio at 19:30 on 9th and 10th December.
Image credits: Ella Fleetham, UCLU Comedy Club