YorkShakes 2015 Review: Shakespeare in his Cups

A playful and amusing look at Shakespeare’s characters, review the boozy Shakespeare in his Cups

Image: Royal Shakespeare Company Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Image: Royal Shakespeare Company Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Venue: The Gillygate Pub

Our setting: a lovely summer evening in York; five students buy tickets to a performance…  At only five pounds a ticket, each had considered it a worthwhile expenditure regardless of their not knowing anything about the proceedings – turns out, it was money well spent.

The Gillygate Pub is definitely worth a visit. Just outside of the city walls, it is a lovely setting for a summer evening with a cold drink in hand and friends to talk to. The stage, such as it was, the end of the garden, trellis fencing obscuring the car park just enough, and a barn visible through the partition. Unsure of whether it was going to be a lecture, performance or something in between, we were pleasantly surprised at what we received. If the premise of three actors discussing Shakespeare’s relation to booze was inviting, then the first actor declaring that a young couple’s anger was due to their intake of ‘thin liquid’ (coke) rather than wine meant that we knew this would be an enchanting occasion for a not-quite-midsummer night.

Our first introduction to the two other cast members was them wheeling a shopping trolley from behind the barn, filled with enough beer to keep any student happy. They rolled effortlessly from play to play, an expertly crafted Falstaff – created through the medium of onion rings – being stuffed under one actor’s shirt (no, really, they became a Falstaff-ian belly with only a modicum of disbelief) and a magnificently sinister retelling of the death of Clarence. It was silly, wonderfully entertaining but not losing the pique of the original text. Despite having a few drinks, the speeches and scenes were performed perfectly, with the slightest change of accent or minimal costume change transforming character into next character. Mistress Quickly and Falstaff were a particular favourite, and throughout the audience were laughing and enjoying themselves.

It was a brilliant early evening treat, and it was great to see not only students and an older crowd enjoying it, but also families and volunteers. The pub and staff offered us a lovely welcome, and a great break from exam and dissertation stress! Some amazingly talented actors and a mesmerising performance, especially the three main actors who all looked as if they had just stumbled from a 1920s theatre show themselves. It was a great mix of slapstick comedy and Shakespearean innuendo all was timed to perfection. Macbeth’s porter scene was wonderfully timed to the Church bells (if not intentional then still fantastic) and some excellent lute-ukulele. There was a little dancing, much merriment and something was mentioned about Egyptian bacchanals, though perhaps this was best left to the imagination of Anthony.

A wonderful feature of the Shakespeare festival, and hats off to actors Martin Barrass, Jonathan Race and Richard Kay for a marvellous performance! They gave us a brilliant evening all in all, and they thoroughly deserved their two encores – interrupted by their imminent need to get to the bar, of course!

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