Forkbeard Fantasy, Shooting Shakespeare

Review in Issue 16-2 | Summer 2004

This is a show about pioneers of early cinema who, in an effort to give status to their fledgling artform, raided the plays of Shakespeare. The fact that early films were silent whilst Shakespeare is anything but seems to have bothered them not one jot.

This incongruous meeting of two seemingly incompatible modes of expression doesn’t seem to have bothered Forkbeard Fantasy either – and for that we can be enormously grateful. Shooting Shakespeare is no reverent straightforward telling of early cinema history, but is a springboard for the company to give flight to their imaginations. If you’re familiar with Forkbeard shows you will know that there is much interplay with live and filmed characters, that the set does far more than just stand there looking pretty and that the performing is gloriously over the top.

However, the real achievement of this company is that despite these familiar approaches they always ring changes on what they do so that the experience of watching them feels as fresh as a daisy.

So we get a story about how cinema is threatening live theatre and we see how the grand actors of the day were forced to adapt or die. We have a story of squabbling artistic egos as the characters are spurred on to more ludicrous flights of fancy… and just in case you think they’ve forgotten Shakespeare, they manage to weave together numerous Shakespearean characters in and out of a version of The Tempest.

Best of all was a sequence where they created the set for the play they were to film. It was a truly mind-boggling fusion of live and filmed action. At times it appeared so multi-layered that you didn’t know what was what so the only decent thing to do was surrender to the experience.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Mar 2004

This article in the magazine

Issue 16-2
p. 27