Richard III (ish)

Shakespeare North Playhouse

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Covering the second longest Shakespearean play in a family friendly way, in under an hour, and with just one person performing all the parts is bordering on absurd. But only bordering, because Cream-Faced Loons proved that not only can this be done, it can be done brilliantly.

The premise of the show is that the Cream-Faced Loons are due to perform an extravagant version of Richard III (even acrobats were mentioned at one point!). There’s just one, pretty significant, problem; the van with the actors in has broken down so they can’t reach the venue. In a bid to give people a show though, Stagehand (Abey Bradbury) decides to try and tell Shakespeare’s classic machiavellian tale single handedly. With a mixture of props, music, an insult generator, and a fair bit of audience interaction, Richard III is performed. Ish.

This show was fantastic. We are both very familiar with Richard III, and in a similar way to how a panto works on multiple levels, the jokes within this production were aimed at those aware of the plot of Richard III and those completely new to the play. There was something there for everyone, which created a great feeling of inclusivity very quickly.

Abey Bradbury brought an infectious energy to the production, and was hilarious as the Stagehand / entire cast. The variety of props added an element of farce, without straying too far into outlandish absurdity. The props were very much there to aid the storytelling rather than purely to act as a comedic point. Our favourite prop was the use of 3 moustaches on a pole which Bradbury moved to denote different speakers. A very simple idea, executed perfectly, and a clever way of showing a discussion at court.

Abey Bradbury and Keith.
Abey Bradbury and Keith. - Image Credit: Here For This

The production includes some audience interaction which always adds an element of danger, and the need to improvise based on how the audience react. Again, Bradbury excelled. There were only 17 people at the performance we watched, and only 4 of those were children, but everyone was put at ease so quickly by Bradbury’s engaging approach that the adults were actually the first to volunteer as participants in the show.

Part of the success of Richard III (ish) lay in the balance of the humour. Rather than having every comedic moment be handed to the audience and overly explained, some of the jokes were left for the audience to discover. During a segment about Shakespearean insults, on the back on one of the pieces of paper was written “Get van MOT”. This was never referenced, just left for the audience to laugh at whilst also providing subtle background information. A similar approach was taken with the use of songs to provide an overview of certain sections of the play. Reminiscent of some of Phoebe’s performances in Friends (though actually in tune), they balanced the piece and gave the audience the information needed to progress the play in a fun and engaging way.

We really enjoy this type of production. They are the perfect introduction to Shakespeare, but are also fun for those who are familiar with The Bard’s work. Cream-Faced Loons was one of the best we have ever seen. An absolutely seamless, clever, and well constructed show. As the tag line to the show says, it’s only Shakespeare, how hard can it be? Cream-Faced Loons made it look effortless.

Whilst this production was only on for 2 performances, Cream-Faced Loons are back at Shakespeare North Playhouse in July with another production entitled ‘Shakespeare - But Just The Deaths’ which will be performed in the Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden. We’re sure that this will be a fantastic show as well. Tickets are available from Shakespeare North Playhouse and start at £5 per person.

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