Review: Shakespeare Re-Shaped, OperaUpClose
4.0Overall Score

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For OperaUpClose’s third season of Coffee Break Concerts, artistic director Robin Norton-Hale chose the theme of ‘Solace and Spring’ with the intention of inspiring hope as we move toward something new. Shakespeare Re-Shaped certainly does this, providing a line-up of wonderful performances which prove that theatre is still alive and waiting to emerge from the wings.

Shakespeare Re-Shaped is the first in a pair of concerts which make up Songs of Solace and Spring, linked by poetry, Shakespeare and the sense coming out of solitude. The piece includes extracts from works by Verdi, Gounot and Finzi, alongside original Shakespeare pieces and some original writing. This offering is sure to bring joy to anyone missing live theatre; however, any dedicated Shakespeare, Gounot or Verdi fans should bear in mind that OperaUpClose have translated the original operas into English, which in turn were only inspired by Shakespeare’s writing. Therefore, the pieces shown in this production are not verbatim to the prior works you may recognise. 

Lara Steward’s rendition of Juliet’s ‘Gallop apace’ monologue, performed in British Sign Language, is perhaps the perfect example that this collection is more about how the pieces make you feel, than the precise nature of the text. The piece is expressed beautifully and the changes in thought and mood are executed superbly as Steward immerses herself in the anguish, hope and expectation of Juliet awaiting Romeo.

The acting is strong across the board in Shakespeare Re-Shaped, as Claire Wild, Rodney Clarke and Joseph Doody work hard to deliver operatic performances which are, obviously very skilful, but also rich in storytelling; managing to communicate a lot non-verbally between singing.

Kat Rose-Martin is completely engaging to watch and her original piece ‘The Ballad of the Voiceless’ the penultimate offering of the production, is completely unique in the line-up. It strikes a humorous, colloquial tone before growing in heart and passion, demanding better representation of female voices. This piece ties into the overall theme of ‘something new coming’ but also is a direct call for action, rather than a passive hope for change.

Shakespeare Re-Shaped is a delightful bitesize piece of theatre, running at just under half an hour, and provides a good range of styles so that, even if a particular piece is not for you, nothing about the production overstays it’s welcome. This hopeful online instalment would brighten the day of anyone missing live theatre, providing a little bit of joy to push us through this last leg of lockdown.

Shakespeare Re-Shaped is playing online until 13 May. For more information and tickets, see OperaUpClose online.