The Shakespeare Revue in Cambridge

The ShakespeareRevue

The ShakespeareRevue - Credit: Archant

It’s not an easy job sending up Shakespeare. People must have been doing it for the past 400 years. But the cast this week at Cambridge Arts Theatre run away with it.

The Shakespeare Revue is a collection of songs and sketches written by some of the wittiest people of the 20th century: Victoria Wood, Dillie Keane, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, Cole Porter, Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore.

Some of the names are remembered now only by an older generation: Bernard Levin and Tom Lehrer.

There moments, just moments, when the cast of five could have done with stronger and funnier material but the performances are consistently splendid. They all have lovely voices, both singing and spoken and great comic timing.

The show opened with The Music Hall Shakespeare, which is a delight: the Bard as he might have been delivered by the cockney darlings of the Edwardian stage. “To be or not to be-ahh.”

Jordan Lee Davies’s version of Victoria Wood’s Giving Notes was a scream. Here an amateur director reminds his cast that the main thing to remember for their production of Hamlet is that “it must be fun”.

It’s a wonderful send-up of amateur theatre: “We open in June, it’s already October so that isn’t long.”

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And Alex Scott Fairley’s The Night I Appeared as Macbeth was an absolute joy. I wanted to see him play Macbeth – it could do with a bit of freshening up.

There were great opportunities for fine singing which the cast made the most of. Lizzie Bea’s version of Carrying a Torch (for the boy that carries the spear) was touching and the wonderful voice of Anna Stolli belting out The Heroine the Opera House Forgot was a delight. I’m sure Verdi wouldn’t have minded.

This was Shakespeare as he might have been performed by the most unlikely performers, including a lovingly presented Flanagan and Allen piece.

This is a deft show, including a gentle parody of the actor’s affectations when playing classic theatre.

It was a lot of fun and despite its irreverence had a touch of a tingle factor by the end.