SATG Review: 'An evening of true delights'

Shakespeare at The George continues until July 3.

Shakespeare at The George continues until July 3. - Credit: Margaret Leverett

There are two schools of thought regarding staging Shakespeare. You can stick rigidly and reverently to the text, wringing meaning, subtext and nuance from every word. Or you can just cut out the boring bits.

Writer/director Richard Brown’s Shakespeare in Love and War opts for the latter, and it’s a smart move. After last year's upheavals a 90-minute medley of favourite scenes (and a few from less-familiar plays) is just what was needed.

The talented cast perform more than 40 of the Bard’s best-loved characters (and some of the fools as well), being kept more or less in line by Reuben Milne’s amusingly enthusiastic role as director and Maggie Redgrave, the stoic stage manager.

Brown’s script contains some suitably dreadful wordplay, and the intelligently-structured selections prevent this from becoming just another greatest hits package. That said, it is slightly too long. The Much Ado About Nothing vignette could have been cut, and the sections from King Lear suffer from their lack of context. And we really do need a moratorium on actors saying “darling” at the end of every line.

The standard of acting is uniformly high throughout. James Barwise’s St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V is beautifully delivered, likewise his wooing scene with Rebecca Gilbert’s Katherine.

Lynne Livingstone’s gender-swapped Malvolio (from 2020’s cancelled Twelfth Night) is outstanding, making the speech wonderfully accessible whatever your familiarity with the rather mean-spirited plot.

Charlotte and Simon Maylor provide a brisk reading of The Taming of the Shrew’s often tiresome Kate and Petruchio, the commentary sagely noting that this play is unlikely to be staged any time soon without major revisions.

Charlotte Maylor.

Charlotte Maylor. - Credit: Margaret Leverett

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Romeo and Juliet is represented by the balcony and death scenes, both played lightly by Georgie Bickerdike and Jordan White. Shakespearean musical interludes can provide variable entertainment, but Ryan Coetsee’s rendition of Feste’s “The rain it raineth every day” proves to be toe-tappingly enjoyable. And in various roles Ashton Cull demonstrates sublime comic timing and delivery.

With the sun setting and swifts wheeling over The George Hotel’s charming courtyard, this was indeed an evening of true delights.

INFO: Performances run until July 3, www.satg.org.uk)

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