The Scottish Play is a solo performance written by Victoria Gartner, founder and artistic director of Will & Co which produces plays about Shakespear, under the umbrella title of Bard in the Yard, a Covid-19 inspired project founded on the legend that William Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth whilst in quarantine during a period of plague.
the most joyously entertaining evening
It’s helpful to understand how the company operates before commenting on the play, which forms a pair with King Leonardo. Each one-hour show is based on the premise that the Bard is lacking inspiration during lockdown and desperately needs the help of others to write his next great work. This is where we play our part as the immersive audience. The next twist is that having written the plays, Gartner then found aspiring Bards across the country who could perform them in any setting.
Currently she has nineteen solo performers spread across the UK, acting in private gardens, car parks, on housing estates and any suitable space that requests a show. In her words, “It’s Deliveroo, but for Shakespeare!” You can book a Bard by sending the company your postcode and you’ll be put in touch with the nearest one. People have given new life to birthday parties, wedding anniversary celebrations, garden parties, hen dos, costume parties and other events by hiring a Bard to perform one of the plays. It’s a brilliant concept and tremendous fun.
Each Bard’s performance of the same script will inevitably be different. On this occasion Luke Farrugia, who graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2015, was musing around the small basement-flat garden in Fulham as the full house of eight people were assembling. With flamboyant red quill in hand and gazing at the trees, the houses, the plants, the sky and anything else that might ignite his creative spark he hopped around the lawn with elf-like agility.
The plot is simple. Shakespeare is newly-returned from Scotland where he saw many unusual sites, learned some history of the country and encountered a witch. This has given inspiration for his next play, The Comedy of Macbeth. Yes, that’s not an error. Who knew that originally Macbeth was to have been a comedy to raise the spirits of the disease-ridden populace? Probably not even Will himself, but it adds to all the ensuing fun and confusion, so let the creative process begin.
Farrugia is, quite simply, an endearing, energetic and hugely talented performer. He has meticulous enunciation, so when reciting some of the famous speeches words come ‘trippingly on the tongue’, as the Bard might say. He engages fully with his audience, in particular reminding the three volunteer amanuenses to pay attention and note his words. He proves to be of ‘infinite jest’ and while faithfully delivering the script skillfully makes use of a baby crying in a nearby flat or a flight of birds passing overhead. He ‘sings, plays, and dances’ but can just as easily turn the mood to pathos when talking of his brother Edmund’s untimely death; cue King Lear. His timing is spot on, his smile delightful and his eyes piercing; he abounds in the qualities necessary to pull off an intimate, light-hearted evening of theatrical magic.
I could go on, but let me just say that this was the most joyously entertaining evening, heightened by being among the first post-lockdown shows. It is a dazzling reminder of why we all need theatre and the wonderful actors and creative teams who make it.
The final word can go to Dame Helen Mirren, referred to as ‘the Godmother’ of this enterprise. "Bard in the Yard is a simply wonderful project which brings Shakespeare to everyone, delivering humanity, connection and inspiration just when we need it the most. If you’re looking for an unforgettable theatrical experience, I highly recommend it."