Monthly Archives: April 2011

Happy Birthday Shakespeare, a project by bloggers around the world

Shakespeare is a man for all ages. If you tried Ben Jonson’s rave review on your average school student they probably wouldn’t agree, instead the very name William Shakespeare could be enough to make them look confused, yawn with boredom, or tremble with fear. If you sat them down in front of a play, however, they just might believe it.


In January 2010 I joined the eight to twelve-year-olds of Claremont School, Kingsbury, as the Royal Shakespeare Company performed a seventy-minute version of Hamlet. Black and Asians pupils made up most of the audience, and many were watching Shakespeare (and even theatre) for the first time. Children are the harshest critics, but this group offered their undivided attention and had absolutely nothing negative to say at the end.


I, a Hamlet virgin, joined them. I was reminded of when I’d make my way to the Oxford Playhouse as a young teenager, often surrounded by an older white middle-class crowd.  I felt out of place. But once the action started, and the jester laughed, lovers kissed, siblings reunited, there was nothing differentiating me from everyone else.


So if someone were to ask: what does Shakespeare mean to you? Shakespeare breaks down barriers. Everyone, including the pupils of Claremont School and myself, can be transported into his world.


Years later from being in the Oxford Playhouse, I went on to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was responsible for attracting new audiences to the theatre, and have continued to seek out weird and wonderful Shakespeare plays, seeing his work danced, rapped, and even tweeted. A man for all ages? Certainly.


Written as a part of Happy Birthday Shakespeare, runs till April 30.

Spotlight: JQ of The Q Brothers, Writer and Composer

The Q Brothers are from Chicago. In 2008 they took Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and put a hip-hop spin on it to create Funk it up About Nothin’. They have taken the play to Chicago, New York, Australia, and the Edinburgh Fringe. The play is now showing in London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East.


What piece of theatre can you remember having an impact on you?

Bring in the Noise, Blue Man Group. I guess I liked things that were a little outside the box.


You’ve performed in Chicago, New York, Edinburgh, and Australia. How does the audience in London differ?

The audiences in Stratford are the most diverse we’ve ever had. It’s the type of audience most theatres dream of having. They are really doing something special here and we are so glad to be a part of it. That said, I think the story is universal and anyone would enjoy it if they are into fun characters and clever wordplay.


What would you say to a young person to encourage them to see the show?

We are really proud of the piece and people of all ages find it exciting. Most young people I know find Shakespeare boring even if they appreciate his genius. All we are doing is trying to give the audience an experience of what we think it might have been like to see Shakespeare in his time.


What do you say to the critics who say this isn’t Shakespeare?

I have nothing to say to them. If they have actually seen the show and don’t think we are true to Shakespeare, then they don’t really know Shakespeare. Most of the people that show up and have a preconceived notion of the show are completely won over once they actually see the piece.


If Shakespeare were alive today, would he be rapping?

Absolutely. He would be telling stories just like he did before, like Slick Rick and Eminem.


Funk it up About Nothin’ at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East runs till May 7.