FUNK IT UP ABOUT NOTHIN’
by the Q Brothers adapted from William Shakespeare.
Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles Square E15 1BN To 7 May 2011.
2.30pm 17 April, 1 May.
3pm 16, 23, 30 April, 7 May.
5pm 17 April, 1 May.
7pm 21 April, 5, 6 May.
7.30pm 14-16, 19-21, 23, 25-28, 30 April, 3, 4, 7 May.
9.30pm 21 April, 5, 6 May.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8534 0310.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 April.
Funking fun in backyard Messina.
Three times (to date) I’ve seen audience groups destroy a performance. Two were senior citizens, the other a set of teenagers. Probably not from a school – it was summer holiday time – but possibly a youth group up at the South Bank’s Lyttelton Theatre for a Caribbean-set Much Ado About Nothing. All Black, it’s likely they’d been brought because of the setting, on the fond adult assumption it was bringing Shakespeare close to them.
They were fine in the songs and dances, but faced with – well, the script – they made their boredom known. Now they’ll be well into adulthood, but the next generation could have a better time at Stratford East (provided they’re 14+). For the Q Brothers’ Hip Hop version of the play runs just 75 minutes, and does away with everything but Shakespeare’s characters and story.
Though that gets mangled and adapted. Beatrice and Benedick are fooled into believing they love each other simultaneously, taking out the scene where Benedick’s swooning while Beatrice is still fuming. Yet the trick’s worked swiftly here with none of the generally unfunny trick-eavesdropping devices directors often impose.
It also focuses action on the serious deception that leads Claudio to eject the apparently faithless Hero. There’s comedy, as villain Don John’s sidekick rogers a lifesize Hero-doll at the window of the brownstone, the backyard of which is scene of the action.
But in place of Shakespeare’s gentle restoration to Claudio, Hero here grows up fast, tasking on a tougher tone. And, talking of tones, anyone thinking this show’s a good thing because it helps young people realise Shakespeare (which this show is not, as much as it is) can be ‘fun’, should notice it also opens eyes to the rhythms and part-rhymes of rap, poetry with something itself to say.
The gay theme seems tacked-on, though the camp, sublimely happy Verges is a delightful character. The show can seem a bit too pleased with itself (the smiling onstage DJ irked me). But, having apparently wowed them in Chicago, New York and Edinburgh, Funk It Up seems set to do the same in London.
Hero/Lil Boi: Jillian Burfete.
Claudio/Judge: Jackson Doran.
Don Pedro/Verges: Postell Pringle.
Don John/Leonato/Dingleberry: GQ.
MC Lady B/Big Jon: Ericka Ratcliff.
DJ: Adrienne Sanchez.
Directors: GQ, JQ.
Designer: Brian Sidney Bembridge.
Lighting: Toby Knyvett.
Costume: Debbie Baer.
Wig/Make-up: Melissa Veal.