Children’s shows review: The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare

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The energetic young performers of Take That Thou are clearly on a mission to convince the world, and children in particular, that Shakespeare is in no way boring.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3)

It’s a message that runs through this show like a stick of rock, as they deliver a fast hour dedicated to the Bard and his works.

A large blackboard lists all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays, and they’re determined to get through them all. An impossibility, of course, but each one is at least name-checked in some shape or form. And Hamlet is actually performed – or at least the key moments – in just one minute and 42 seconds.

It’s unlikely that anyone unfamiliar with the plays will leave armed with a storyline, but that’s not really the point here. The stories themselves are rich and layered, beautifully written and utterly compelling – that’s the sentiment they are trying to impart. Brief snatches of Shakespearean dialogue are slowly introduced, convincing a sceptical cast member (and, hopefully, us) that the language is both understandable and, if said well, exquisite.

And say it well they most certainly do. The company, comprising students of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, switch easily between exuberant narrators and actual characters. As an adult, you perhaps crave more of this, but again that’s for another time – this is about broad brush strokes, not nuanced detail.

Most of the action is played for laughs, again diminishing any preconceived notions that a trip to see Shakespeare is an appointment with the inside of your eyelids. Scenes of all the major deaths, illustrating his proclivity for stabbing and poisoning, are cleverly interspersed with biographical content, all of which conspires to inspire a future trip to the theatre with a curious and open mind.

Until today, 11:10am.

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