Shakespeare's Greatest Hits

Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits does pretty much what it says on the tin: runs through some of the Bard’s best-known monologues and soliloquies, from Jaques’ “All the world’s a stage” to Hamlet’s “To be or not to be”. It’s performed mostly by the versatile, expressive Lance Pierson, with the help of Heather Chamberlain on the piano and Belinda Yate singing.

Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits doesn’t aspire to much, but it can’t be said to disappoint.

Pierson is adept at changes in character, moving swiftly from exaggerated villainy in Richard III to A Midsummer Night’s Dream pastoral. None of these will go down as definitive interpretations, but his Machiavellian slant on Antony’s funeral address at least is thought-provoking. If there’s an edge of caricature to some of these performances, that may be precisely what’s needed to keep the unconnected extracts engaging. Projected text and images support the orations: first-person explanations by ‘Shakespeare’ are grating and occasionally misleading (“My plays include songs to help change the mood”), but the glosses are useful.

Yates, meanwhile, is a superb soprano, and her rendition of Somewhere (There’s a Place For Us) from West Side Story is a highlight of the performance. Chamberlain’s electric piano permits an organ-like sound which helps set the tone, as do the ensemble’s costumes. Lest an excerpt from Greensleeves should seem incongruous, we are told that it was well known by Shakespeare’s time and is mentioned in one of his plays.

The concept isn’t particularly profound. Purists would argue that the passages’ real meaning is specific to the context of their plays. It’s an interesting enough show though, probably a reasonable introduction to Shakespeare for children, and for others a pleasant memory-refresher. Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits doesn’t aspire to much, but it can’t be said to disappoint.

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The Blurb

2014 is William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. It’s the right moment to celebrate his enormous contribution to our culture. But if you don’t have time to see all 37 plays or read all 154 sonnets then just check out these Greatest Hits. Actor Lance Pierson brings to life the best sonnets and speeches from Henry to Hamlet and Richard to Romeo. He is supported by soprano Belinda Yates and pianist Heather Chamberlain who present scene setting music. Don’t miss the bard himself leading you through the selection of his hits on the accompanying projection.