Shakespeare Tonight

In Shakespeare Tonight, the famous playwright gives his first ever television performance on a talk show with host Martina, only to be confronted by his so-called ‘enemy’, humanist writer Francis Bacon. The idea in itself is a bit gimmicky, and it is so poorly executed that it is just unconvincing.

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.

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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The Blurb

Breaking... Shakespeare's alive! First ever interview. If Shakespeare were living and writing today, who would he be? A genius, an outsider, or just plain Bill? The Bard is very much alive and kicking, Hamlet's just opened (to mixed reviews!) and Will’s in the hot seat. Finally, we ask the questions that have kept us all guessing: Are these plays really his? Why the tragedies? What happened with Anne? Second guest: Sir Francis Bacon, Shakespeare's arch-rival. To be or not to be…? The answer’s not on Google. Festival premiere after hit run down under! 'Fantastic!' (James Valentine, ABC Sydney).

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