Shakespeare's Fool

Fringe roulette is part of what keeps us coming back year after year. As long as it's “theatre darling” we thespians can be relied upon to enjoy the good, the bad and perhaps especially the ugly as much as the ground-breaking and visionary during August-tide.

Quality story telling

That said, a banker of a show which does exactly what it says on the tin is never unappreciated, and in Shakespeare’s Fool, Tortive Theatre gives the audience an hour of quality story-telling from start to finish.

William ‘Cavaliero’ Kempe was once a gentleman player, juggling jester and London’s finest clown of the era, admired for his bawdy antics and witty turns of phrase. Rob Leetham takes us on Kempe’s journey from the unloved shining morning-face of his childhood to the furnace-sighing lover and through to his last scene of all as sad, washed-up has-been with charisma and sensitivity.

As the fickle finger of fame tickles and elevates Kempe only to finally drop him in a trough of stale ale and pig shit, we are treated to a tale told by an idiot – full of sound and fury – of heights reached, liaisons liaised and ambitions thwarted. And in the end, of course, it signifies nothing. Shakespeare is still a byword… and Kempe a footnote. It is this all too familiar tale of the shining star and the acolyte which has underpinned so much great literature and which leads to Kempe’s booze-sodden collapse. We are entertained, educated and engaged by Kempe and left feeling for him despite his self-defeating life choices: for who would bear the whips and scorns of going head to head with the greatest wordsmith of all time… (linguistically light-fingered though he may have been) in matters of the heart or theatre?

Do you need to be a Shakespeare fan to enjoy the show? Well, it will help you to get the jokes, but it really doesn’t matter if this is your starting point. The writing which gifts Kempe the space to breathe away from Shakespearean legacy will take any newbie by the hand and lead them confidently through the stinking streets of Southwark.

Shakespeare’s Fool is an economic, classy piece directed robustly by Ben Humphrey and brought to life by a multi-faceted Leetham who embraces the tears of the clown... all too patently aware that the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

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Reviews by Rebecca Vines

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

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The Blurb

William 'Cavaliero' Kempe was a gentleman player, juggling jester and London's finest clown, until... he fell out with Will 'git-face' Shakespeare. Kempe died alone and poverty-stricken, not far from the original Globe Theatre, of which he was an original shareholder. He faded into obscurity, a world away from his former life, having originated some of literature's best-known characters, including Bottom, Dogberry, and even Falstaff. Join Kempe as he gives his final performance to an audience of a mouse and a marrot, and tells us what really happened between him and Shakespeare.

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