by Laura Kressly
In the ancient city of Babylon, people lived peacefully. They were left to their own devices until, according to a biblical story, they built a tower that reached to the heavens. Then, a vengeful god destroyed it and scattered the citizens around the world bestowing them different languages so they could no longer communicate. For language and peace are power, and power threatens those in charge.
by Louis Train
Thriller Live, the Michael Jackson concert show on the West End, celebrated its tenth anniversary last night with a performance and a reception. The performance was great fun and the reception was tasteful, and the evening, overall, was a success. But I feel there were some lingering questions that neither the personalities on stage nor at the party can answer.
by NY guest critic Steven Strauss
American dramaphiles tend to view Britain as a hotbed of hyper-verbal and hyper-intellectual plays, especially in comparison to our home-bred musicals that often lack the same resonant depth. This is of course a gross over-generalization with countless exceptions, but personally, I became a card-carrying theatrical anglophile thanks to the massive transatlantic influx of Stoppardian texts in which characters talk talk talk about Serious and Important Ideas.
Professor Ashborn is on a mission to disprove Shakespeare’s existence, but the academics with leather patches on their elbows are trying to stop him. Following Ashborn’s lecture and an interval, Undead Bard creator Robert Crighton summons Shakespeare to talk to him about his life, work and death in an unrelated second half. This two-part show on Shakespeare in the modern world, bardolatry and the authorship debate certainly has some very funny moments of satire, but others are utterly bizarre and the poor execution of an idea. A significantly stronger first act sets up a reasonably enjoyable event, but the second is self-indulgent and anti-climactic in this overly long solo performance.
The paranoid Professor Ashborn’s lecture rips the piss out of Shakespeare academics, those that believe Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s works, those that believe someone else did under Shakespeare’s name and anyone with a love for Shakespeare’s plays. Crighton as Ashborn talks the audience through his various ridiculous authorship theories with energy and eccentric humour, evoking plenty of laughs. The script follows a natural rhythm of discovery, disappointment and eventual confession; it’s a story carefully crafted with intuition and skill.
Considering the second act, the first would be better served as a stand-alone piece. After what is quite a good piece of character storytelling, this random, rambling seance on the mundanity of Shakespeare’s life and afterlife is, well, mundane. The inclusion of toilet humour and sexual innuendo do not improve the piece. Shakespeare’s confusion at his legacy is cute, but it absolutely doesn’t warrant nearly an hour of discourse and disconnected pop culture references.
Crighton clearly has an aptitude for crafting a story, as evidenced in the first part of the show. Unfortunately, the rest of it is a muddled letdown that needs to be sent back to the drawing board or discarded completely.
Undead Bard runs through 13 October.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.