The Jeremy Kyle Show Does Shakespeare

A young girl swears she will kill herself if her parents won’t let her date her boyfriend. A man slept with another man’s wife. A child wants to find out who her father is. Is this an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show, or the plot of a play by Shakespeare? This is, in fact, The Jeremy Kyle Show Does Shakespeare, in which the plots of four Shakespeare plays are cleverly adapted to fit the talk show’s format. It is worrying, actually, how well the former adapts to the latter; the Montagues and the Capulets live in rival council estates, Katherine (from The Taming of the Shrew) assaults her sister onstage and is restrained by security, and the infamous DNA and lie-detector tests are used to find out Perdita’s true parentage, and if Claudius really did kill Hamlet’s father. Not only do Shakespeare’s characters worryingly fit the dysfunctional mould of many of the types of guests on the show, from abusive families to couples with marital issues, but as they do, this company shows that the subjects of Shakespeare’s plays are just as relevant today as they were in the sixteenth century.

The various Shakespearean characters are brought into the present day with great enthusiasm, skill and some hilarious costumes from the cast.

The format is portrayed not just through these episodes but in the show’s all-encompassing nature. Queuing outside the venue, we are told by one of the cast that this will be a live television recording, and are also greeted by the show’s psychotherapist, who tells some members of the audience they’ll need to talk to him later. Once inside we are taken through our paces with cue cards, told when to gasp, boo and applaud. There are even advertisement breaks between the various episodes, with such clever nods to the Shakespeare canon as Lady Macbeth advertising a stain remover and the rather alarming Shylock’s Loans – your pound of flesh is at risk if you do not keep up repayments! Within the episodes themselves, the plots of Shakespeare’s plays are carefully crafted into attention-grabbing titles that wouldn’t be out of place on the actual show, such as the brilliant ‘My uncle killed my dad and married my mum and now I’m my own cousin!’. Video is also used here, as in the show, to show the characters backstage, talking to Graham in the Green Room, or simply storming off. As a final touch, some episodes are staged as follow-up episodes (“That was six months ago...”) and all onstage twirl to represent the passage of time; a hilarious touch.

The various Shakespearean characters are brought into the present day with great enthusiasm, skill and some hilarious costumes from the cast (think Romeo in a baseball cap and tracksuit trousers), but it is Dave House as Jeremy Kyle who really stands out. Not only does House look similar to the talk-show presenter, but his accent and mannerisms, from the phrases he uses (‘There’s no excuse for abuse’, ‘That’s a happy ending...sort of’), shortening characters’ names, twisting their words and using them against them, even the way he moves about the stage, really capture the character of Kyle and bring him to life, tying the show together brilliantly. Particular highlights of House’s performance include Kyle interrupting Hamlet’s soliloquies and his uttering the brilliant line ‘You killed Polonius, you muppet!’.

An absolutely hilarious take on Shakespeare and reality TV, The Jeremy Kyle Show Does Shakespeare is better than the original; you can’t look away, and for good reason. It’s ridiculous, it’s clever, and it’s free, so turn off your TV and go and see this show instead.

Reviews by Catriona Scott

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The Blurb

Join our Studio Audience as Jeremy Kyle takes on some of the trickiest problems penned by the bard himself... He’s the man to untangle teenage lovers, family mysteries and painful histories. Expect lie detector tests and DNA results!

PBH Free Fringe