Review: The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Children’s shows

The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare

Assembly George Square Studios, v17

11:00 (ends 17 August)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)

Another cracker of a show which you simply must-see, whether or not you have a child to take along with you.

On a simple stage with red velvet curtains at the rear and a couple of large boxes on stage Take Thou That Company – second-year students from the Old Vic Theatre school – present an exhilarating romp through every single one of the plays of William Shakespeare who was, as they continually, and musically, remind us, “the greatest playwright in the world”.

But isn’t he boring? you might ask? Isn’t he impossible to understand? Well no, gentles all – with this irrepressibly energetic band of thespians, aided by the Unfeasibly Loud Klaxon of Uncertainty, the language is made clear, life at the time is graphically portrayed, and an impressive amount of information is imparted in a ridiculously short amount of time.

Audience participation is invited and encouraged, especially as we pass swiftly through Shakespeare’s ‘missing years’ with the help of the Elizabethan Insults game, which should be an essential ingredient of any party. We are asked to choose between comedy, tragedy and history and are then treated to a two-minute rendition of one of the plays from the genre of our choice. [I won’t tell you which we saw, but it was a classic distillation of all the essential elements of one of his greatest plays]

There was an abundance of grisly moments, and plenty of [fortunately imaginary] blood and guts spilt on stage. A quick canter through ‘all the deaths in his plays’ left us gasping; there was plenty of comedy and a good smattering of [yuk!] romance; there was even a very brief mention of [say it very quietly] poetry. I adored the excellently inventive toe-tapping music in a wide variety of genres which burst out at the drop of a hat. There was a wonderful closing jig accompanying a song naming all the plays: but my favourite was the authentic-sounding dirge Come away, come away death which followed Ariel’s final speech from The Tempest – it was superbly written and superbly sung.

Whatever age you are, however much you know about the Bard of Avon, haste ye to Assembly George Square and brush up your Shakespeare in a piece that is pure genius from author, composer and brilliantly versatile cast.

Mary Woodward