Brighton Fringe 2015
Irene Kelleher delivers an outstanding performance as the high-energy, high-intensity Mrs Shakespeare. An engaging story from beginning to end with some hilarious moments and a couple of wonderful plot-twists.
The show opens with Mrs Shakespeare lying on a psychiatrist’s couch, introducing the central theme of the play. This is Mrs William Shakespeare, and she is the reincarnation of the bard, 400 years on.
Mrs Shakespeare introduces Henry, a German psychiatrist of an irritable disposition. The development of her relationship with Henry is the theme that drives the play forward. Mrs Shakespeare explains to Henry how she plans to write the story of Ophelia, and how she made so many mistakes with Hamlet. Tearing up a copy of the play, she complains that last time around she made some fundamental mistakes. The ghost wasn’t even needed, she explains, and the whole “To be or not to be…” is just a massive cliché.
Mrs Shakespeare explains how she is haunted in dreams by the characters she left on the sidelines – most notably Polonius and the Gravedigger, and how she plans to put Claudius in his place by making him a cleaner in her next play. Henry is not amused, and this arouses her suspicions.
Irene Kelleher delivers an outstanding performance – full of energy and confidence – and this provides intensity to the character’s insanity. Dressed in full Elizabethan garb, she occasionally comes into the aisles and talks to the audience directly.
The set is wonderfully designed, with a few hand props, and a pen a quill for Mrs Shakespeare to use when she returns to her diary. There is a wonderful use of set when she explains the death of a character, but I won’t spoil it for you by revealing it here. Music is used simply and effectively, primarily to mark the changes between scenes.
The noise from the two main roads next to the site of the Warren was distracting at times, and there was a danger of the sound getting lost in the venue, but the strong performance of Kelleher meant that she held the audience’s attention for the duration.
This is a wonderful show, with lots of laugh-out-loud moments and great production values.