This show does not live up to expectations.
The main show information promises ‘anecdote, insight, performance, analysis and laughter’ and the website states there will be ‘live performance of some of Shakespeare’s greatest moments. There weren’t. During the show mention was made of how this piece means getting to play great roles without having to audition. Entertaining moment… no great roles played. No roles played at all.
Anecdote, insight, some analysis and some laughter, mostly of the dry chuckle variety, were delivered as James Sheldrake talked about Shakespeare and the ideas he has developed over 8 years of teaching. Sheldrake has some performance experience in Shakespeare plays and the one moment he moved to the back of the stage – a small section of an old Edinburgh vaulted basement – to commit to the delivery of a line incorrectly printed in the First Folio paid off. Promise was also shown in an ad-libbed, iambic pentameter line.
Promise is a good word for this show – it has promise. Sheldrake undoubtedly knows his subject and does seem to care about it. His call to Shakespeare’s playfulness – the sense of curiosity, questioning, entertainment and shaking things up that draws so many to the Bard’s works – in this ‘unplayful age’ as Sheldrake puts it, is interesting and relatable. His conceit of “what Keith Floyd was to food; this show is to Shakespeare” provided some entertainment and – once – delicious description when talking about As You Like It in food terms. It also provided the notion of which of Shakespeare’s characters Sheldrake would invite as dinner guests, and there are some wry references to modern politics that work.
Sheldrake handled things well when a member of the audience had trouble with his mic use, thankfully ditching the tech and proving perfectly – and pleasantly – capable of filling the space without it. His use of notes was mostly unobtrusive, and as a general exploration of Shakespeare’s plays and some of his ideas, the time spent was pleasant enough. However, the whole is a mix without framework, the ideas about food and guests, order and play/chaos mostly lost in musings and wanderings. This is not the – also-mentioned – comedy gig nor actual performance information on the show offered.
‘Sheldrake on Shakespeare: Live!’ requires work on performance techniques and creating a structured, consistent piece. The ideas are there and of worth to those who have an interest in Shakespeare, at whatever level of knowledge. Now that this review has provided more realistic expectations, you could actually enjoy ‘Sheldrake on Shakespeare: Live!’
Reviewer: Danielle Farrow
Reviewed: 10th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: