The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare

Fun for parents and children alike, The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare is a brilliant introduction to Shakespeare: the man and his plays. Cleverly structured around the ‘seven ages of man’ from As You Like It, it entertainingly informs the audience about Shakespeare’s own life, in a dynamic and varied way that is reminiscent of BBC’s Horrible Histories.

I for one found myself enjoying it far more than I had expected to; I even learnt a few things.

The show is fantastically educational: crammed with facts and silliness that had children, as well as the number of unaccompanied adults who attended, giggling away. In addition to an in-depth coverage of Shakespeare’s life, the cast also manage to cover all 37 of the plays to some degree. There are a few opportunities for the audience to get involved, which is always wonderful in a kids’ show. They could have possibly done a little more of this; the first half in particular left small children sitting quietly for quite a while, resulting in a few beginning to fidget and lose focus.

The second half definitely made up for this, however, with the “Shakespearean Insult Game”, which went down very well with youngsters. The fun death sequence at the end was truly inspired and very funny to watch. Other highlights include the recurring character of Shakespeare’s embarrassing dad, the musical talent of the group and the section on Shakespeare’s poetry, which was made accessible to children.

The songs were beautifully performed; Come Away in particular was so beautifully sung that it actually produced goosebumps, which was definitely a pleasant surprise in a children’s show. The acting was of a very high standard, incredibly well tailored to the audience and the group clearly have a lot of individual talent as well.

Despite being advertised as a children’s show, The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare seemed to have attracted a number of adults as well, possibly seeking some refuge from the chaos of George Square and the Old Town. I for one found myself enjoying it far more than I had expected to; I even learnt a few things. If you are looking for a show suitable for the whole family that will introduce children (and possibly yourself) to the world’s most performed playwright, The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare is for you. 

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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The Blurb

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of his death, Ruff Guide tells the tale of William Shakespeare (well, what we know of him!) Seven actors from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School will take you on a journey through his life, his plays and the Elizabethan stage! Designed for all the family, this is an inclusive show with audience participation. So, expect silly songs, daft dance routines and some of his most famous speeches as you learn about the greatest playwright of all time!