Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“Meet Bill, Wild Bill. Shakespeare, drunkard, imposter, literary terrorist, as he descends into madness. Mentally torn apart by the characters and plays that he created, he roars down any doubt of authorship and we discover that Shakespeare not only penned the plays attributed to him but also a whole other folio of works – everything ever written! Merging his most famous characters with modern day film we discover how years of worship has created a god, a monster, the immortal Shakespeare – Wild Bill.”
Michael Longhi delivers an intensely energetic performance. Flitting between characters and moods with chaotic zeal he leads us into a dense text that explores the controversial origins of Shakespeare’s work and the influence of his legacy to date. The performance centers on the character of Wild Bill, a weird and slightly grotesque embodiment of Shakespeare as both historical figure and cultural tradition. Bill has been immortalized by the world that revers him, but now he is left to defend himself against a tirade of conspiracies that seek to undermine the legitimacy of his authorship.
The man is almost Schizophrenic as he flits between various characters and ideas. He recites extracts from an impressive number of Shakespeare’s plays and draws parallels between film and modern language as he demonstrates the extent of his influence on contemporary culture. The references are extremely entertaining and anyone with an interest in Shakespeare would delight in identifying the various characters and the modern counterparts they have been paired with on stage. Likewise, for anyone with an interest in film, the references are well delivered, fun, and provide a point of access through which to engage with Shakespeare’s work. These extracts are interspersed with arguments about who Shakespeare actually was as well as how, or whether he could have had such a prolific career. The ideas are smoothly outlined and debated through well researched biographical information about the Bard’s life and the context within which he worked. In this way, the performance is both educational, accessible and entertaining. It could be played to a number of different audiences from Shakespeare connoisseurs to School children (with a bit of tweaking) and even rowdy pub crowds.
At times the delivery feels slightly relentless and I would like to have seen more variety in terms of pacing and energy. The text is dense and heavy, certain parts could be sacrificed to allow the performer to slow down and explore space, staging and different ways of engaging the audience. This would also provide the audience with a much needed opportunity to digest some of the material presented and consider the ideas at hand.
There is still a lot of potential that has yet to be explored and it will be interesting to see how Longhi continues to develop this piece. Overall this is a very engaging performance and I would recommend it for anyone with an interest in Shakespeare, good traditional character acting and strong, text based work.