Shakespeare on Love

Shakespeare on Love offers a heartwarming performance given by a group of Milwaukee high school students: the brainchild of their two English teachers. To call it a play, as the programme chooses to, is perhaps a misnomer: the show is a variety performance that showcases the students’ Shakespearean scene work and musical aptitude, all under the blanket theme of ‘Love’, which is interpreted broadly and occasionally somewhat indirectly.

for those wanting a bit of light relief in a busy Fringe schedule

For a high school performance, it was generally an impressive show: students had clearly explored a variety of texts and had adapted them pretty loyally. The scenes themselves derived from Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and showcased some real talent: the mechanicals’ play from A Midsummer Night’s Dream was one of the funniest I’ve witnessed in a while, and the energy and commitment to the famous “Kiss Me Kate” scene from The Taming of the Shrew between Kate (Livia Quinn) and Petruchio (Rylan McNally) was astounding and very funny - both would be very well suited to playing the roles in full. It was disappointing that they chose to cut the scene from Henry IV Part One between Hotspur and Lady Percy, one of the most romantic scenes in Shakespeare, however, and the “Rhythmic Interlude” seemed to be more of a way of killing time on tour and in the show than anything else, bearing no mind to the subject matter, amusing though it was.

Although a lovely way of showcasing the hard work clearly done at school, with a great deal of emerging talent from the students, Shakespeare on Love falls short in its overall structure. A soundwall with twenty monologues going on simultaneously might be a nice way of saving time and giving everyone an equal opportunity, but the effect is incoherent. The scenes were tenuously linked together with no strong narrative or argument throughout, resulting in dips in time and energy. The musical numbers were a nice way of getting students to engage directly with the songs from the plays, composing their own melodies, but again seemed awkwardly plonked into the whole hotchpotch performance. There were many moments that shone, but the lack of an overall arc to weave the patchwork together meant that there were moments of confusion where energy and focus dipped.

A lot of work and effort clearly went into making this show a reality, from the fantastic costumes to the incredibly well-choreographed fight scene between Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt in the scene from Romeo and Juliet. Amongst the cast were many who showed incredible potential and who will hopefully carry on acting. The students are clearly fortunate to have such an attentive English department, who are introducing them to the author’s work in the best way possible. The performance has merit, and those wanting a bit of light relief in a busy Fringe schedule should definitely consider Shakespeare on Love as a nice introduction to some of the Bard’s best plays. 

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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The Blurb

World premiere! This vibrant, fast-paced new play confronts Shakespeare’s most powerful scenes. Enjoy sword fights, love at first sight, and merry minstrels as they dance through this whirlwind adventure that brings Shakespeare from corsets to Converse.