Who says that Shakespearean theatre has to be dry and boring? Imagine, instead of the usual drawn out performance, the audience and actors could gather together mid-play and enjoy a pint of nice, cold beer! This is the probable thought process behind the productions of ShakesBeer.
The Classical Theatre Project created a Toronto-ized variation of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (originally written in 1987 by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield) to the sound of opening beer cans, the smell of salty nuts, and a somewhat buzzed audience. Needless to say, the wonderful magic of alcohol enhanced everyone’s perception of the play.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), for those who haven’t been exposed to this hilariously awesome script, is a condensation of all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays into a short 75-minute production performed by a cast of (usually) three men. I must admit, my review of The Classical Theatre Project’s rendition of TCWWS(A) might be biased, simply because I own a DVD of the play performed in its originality by The Reduced Shakespeare Company. The Reduced Shakespeare Company performed in a traditional, closed theatre space, with proper lighting, access to backstage, stagehands and all that spiel. The Classical Theatre Project, on the other hand, performed in a poorly lit barn (Artscape Wychwood Barns) with its open doors letting in outside noise. Anyone not sitting in the first row couldn’t see because everyone was sitting on the same level.
The Classical Theatre Project however, had a more important success: it highlighted local Torontonian culture. One of the premises of ShakesBeer is that all of the beer served is locally brewed. On a personal level I think that uniting theatre (artistic culture) with beer (consumption culture) provides a great venue not only for the Classical Theatre Project to be part of a new gimmick, but also to allow less popular breweries to make a debut in a relaxed, open crowd. In that regard, Artscape Wychwood Barns may have been a good choice for a performance space because the openness of the location allowed audience members to still (somewhat) hear the actors, while refreshing their beers or communicating with the vendors.
As for the actual acting of ShakesBeer, the ensemble was successful. Matt Drappel, Kevin Ritchie and especially the overly dramatic Jeff Hanson pulled off the production spectacularly, if not for some minor hiccups, once again, due to the theatre space.
Directed by: Charles Roy
For more information on ShakesBeer and The Classical Theatre Project make sure to visit their website at www.shakesbeer.ca