Shakespeare Syndrome

In Shakespeare Syndrome, brought to Edinburgh by the talented Mermaidsgroup from the University of St. Andrews, some of Shakespeare’s most beloved and complex characters find themselves in psychiatrist Dr. Bard’s office, with hilarious results. This innovative show highlights and brings to comic light some of the greatest absurdities of Shakespeare’s work, from homicidal maniac Richard III, complete with Lancashire accent and hobby horse, to the murderous Macbeths, and from the angsty adolescent Hamlet to the psychedelic-infused Puck, with various others in between. Shakespeare puns and gags run riot in this edgy new update on some of the most interesting characters, and the concept itself is fitting as well as innovative: Freud, after all, based numerous case-studies on examples extracted from the playwright.

Shakespeare Syndrome is a fun and upbeat show that would especially appeal to people fond of Shakespeare’s work, and light-hearted but well-performed by young, upcoming talent.

A functional knowledge of at least the outlines of the plays is useful to gain full enjoyment, but even to someone less well-versed, who struggles to distinguish their Hamlet from their hamstring, Shakespeare Syndrome is still relatively enjoyable. The actors are young, innovative and talented, committing to their roles and gaining laughs consistently throughout from the relaxed and grinning audience. Overflowing with delightful puns, witty one-liners and visual slapstick moments, Shakespeare Syndrome is cleverly written and charismatically performed by a strong ensemble.

Though light-hearted and enjoyable, the plot is not wildly compelling and the show relies on the moment to moment jokes instead of a grippingly tight narrative to maintain the audience’s attention. Energy seemed to wane somewhat halfway through, before picking up again at the excellent entry of Nick Bottom (Oli Savage), the vainglorious ‘act-or’. Furthermore, although beautifully portrayed and well acted, it is unclear why Olivia from Twelfth Night has wound up as Shakespeare’s receptionist. The ending is a little weak but is redeemed from the moving and powerful epilogue from Puck, based on the gorgeous final monologue of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, highlighting the group’s desire to raise funds for a worthy cause in honour of a lost friend.

The group could have benefitted from a slightly bigger and quieter space within Greenside, as visibility can be somewhat limited from the back of the room, but enjoyable despite spacial restrictions. Shakespeare Syndrome is a fun and upbeat show that would especially appeal to people fond of Shakespeare’s work, and light-hearted but well-performed by young, upcoming talent. 

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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The Blurb

How will the Macbeths respond to the inkblot test? Is Richard III allowed to use the disabled parking space? Does Bottom actually have a donkey’s head, or is he just an ass? The answers to these questions and more can be found in Shakespeare Syndrome, a comedy exploring what happens when several of William Shakespeare’s most beloved characters end up at the same psychiatrist’s office. Unfortunately for them, Dr Bard is not the most competent of doctors and it’s not long before events spiral far out of his control. Though this be madness, there is no method in’t.