Wilton’s Music Hall
This is a Shakespeare’s Globe-backed production which tells two Shakespearean tales from the point of view of characters behind the scenes. So we get to meet the Capulets’ party planner, and Titus Andronicus’s pie-maker. Oh – and this is a family friendly production, and no I don’t know why they chose those two plays…
What they have – in tone, but certainly not in abstract use of props – is reminiscent of the stripped-back storytelling of Table Top Shakespeare. People outside the action tell you what happened – albeit with more emphasis on giving you a true rendition of at least some of Shakespeare’s words – and the production rises or falls in the basis of their ability to draw you in.
Thank goodness, then, that the Globe has found incredibly gifted, as well as incredibly brave, actors in Sally Lofthouse and Tom Giles. They managed not only to tell their tales, but also to weave in some genuine audience participation, while staying in character*. No mean feat. Sally Lofthouse was a bright and breezy party planner, with a fabulous set of pink cleaning implements (including fabulous floral rubber gloves) and an entertaining line in modern takes on the story (my personal favourite was “hashtag banishment”). She created an astonishingly believable persona, who was able to bring the whole audience in to the story as well- I found it fitting that one of her most spell binding moments was in recounting Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech.
Titus Andronicus seemed to take a more layered approach – lots of nods and winks if you knew what was going to happen, but also a clearer story arc for the pie-maker than the party planner. Tom Giles’ storytelling style seemed more physically arresting** which befits a far more gruesome tale, but also had a lot of genuine humour – especially the repeated roll-call of kitchen implements as characters and (and please don’t judge me on this) Lavinia as a corn dolly completely lacking in limbs of any kind. And while I suspect the play may have been simplified, I still ended up with a much better idea of what went on than I expected to.
I’m still not sure how the Globe came to choose those two tales to retell, and I rather hope they might choose some more…
* I laughed like a drain when she asked how old my father was and then went “well you might remember how the Montagues and Capulets got started”. Well played.
** Or am I just naturally more nervous around big knives than balloons – even when you KNOW they are going to go pop?