Extraordinarily dull and insignificant, with no clear aim – and this is coming from someone who cares about the subject.
The presenter Martina (Priscilla Fere) definitely looks the part, glammed up in a shimmering red dress with perfectly coiffed blonde hair; yet she fails to play the Diva she is portrayed as physically, seeming just too nice and just too timid to tackle the roll head on. It’s all very tentative. Shakespeare has been comically contemporised, complete with hipster topknot and frilly shirt. He is certainly an eccentric, but he is just altogether too unlikeable and smarmy. The entire spectacle is a little cringe-worthy, leaving one wondering who the target audience is, as the host cross-examines Shakespeare on aspects of his life.
The fake rivalry between the smug and inexplicably silly Francis Bacon (Garry Voss) and Shakespeare is rather trite, fuelling the plot with very little drama. The plot is mediocre at best, with very low stakes and a real lack of intensity. The majority of the jokes fall flat due to poor delivery, and to not being that funny in the first place. Lines, meanwhile are clumsily recited, lacking any of the spontaneity that creates authenticity.
Shakespeare Tonight was an astoundingly amateur production for a professional company. The play itself is extraordinarily dull and insignificant, with no clear aim – and this is coming from someone who cares about the subject. If the objective was to amuse, it fails to do so; if it is supposed to educate, it does this in a confusing and often inaccurate way, so this too fails. Of the Shakespeare-related shows at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, I would suggest that Shakespeare Tonight ought to be avoided.