Messing with Shakespeare is par for the course at the Fringe. Each year, theatre companies jostle to reinvent the bard’s sonnets and soliloquies, delivering them with post-modern, zeitgeist-grabbing tongue-in-cheek pizzazz. It’s a wonder there’s not a Shakespeare theatre app available yet; shake once to determine the play you’ll be demolishing this season. Shake twice to learn the regional accent you’ll be adopting. Then, if you don’t like Scouse, shake a third time to roll again.
The recasting of Romeo & Juliet as a Made in Chelsea romp - complete with vapid airheads and Hunter-clad toffs - might seem like a gutsy move, but in 2012 it’s exactly what you’d expect. To be daringly outre, a theatre company should actually aver: “You know what? We’re just gonna do Shakespeare traditionally this year. Screw all your vajazzles and Fakies.”
Verona’s most famous balcony may be transformed into a humble stepladder for the purposes of this production, but SfB towers over the competition. Ill-fated love, murder and suicide have never seemed funnier. Mocking popular culture while taking liberties with the classics may be de rigueur these days, but SfB is in no danger of being subsumed into the contemporary Shakespearean canon. It’s far too sharp and self-deprecating for that.
“I just cannae stop thinking about her,” says our Geordie Romeo, lamenting his banishment to Manchester. “Shall I compare thee to a Tyne summer’s day?”
Over the course of 60 side-splitting minutes, everything from G4S to Boris Johnson’s zip-lining escapades is lampooned, as well as cameos from Siri - the iPhone’s talking assistant - and 50 Shades of Grey, naturally.
With such lines as “We should deffo banter” and “I was just sick in my mouth”, Shakespeare for Breakfast may not be one for the purists. For the rest of us, however, it’s a quest to count the number of cultural references that can be crammed in before Juliet chugs down an Innocent smoothie and expires. SfB is so silly that before long, we’ve stopped caring about the fate of our star-crossed lovers – so long as we get a rendition of Whigfield’s Saturday Night and a croissant to chew on, we’ll leave feeling full and contented. There’s nothing tragic about this glorious tragicomedy.