Image courtesy of Kelechi Anna Hafstad.
Bob: The Tragic Hero Time Forgot
The Wee Red Bar
On first viewing, Bob’s provocative trailer has the power to disturb the true Shakespeare fan; the battering of his bust with hammers being a downright act of literary blasphemy. On a side note, it is also oddly appropriate considering this week’s news, which supports the urban myth that the head of England’s greatest Bard was stolen by callous 18th century graveyard robbers.
The claim of Gin and Tonic Productions, that they ‘turn the work of Shakespeare on its head’, is a huge understatement. Instead they shatter it; gluing it haphazardly back together while also slotting in fragments of modern culture, constructing an hour’s worth of insane jigsaw-like entertainment. If the audience are prepared to leave their reservations at the Wee Red Bar’s door, however, the play can be appreciated in all its refreshing, ridiculous, and reconstructive glory.
The sentimental tones of Greensleeves playing at the beginning of the performance quickly gave way to the esteemed melodies of Kanye, ABBA and Taylor Swift, and the addition of popular culture was epitomised by the ultimate crowd pleaser: a Harry Potter plug. The plot is loosely based on Macbeth, but with the addition of a dizzying montage of subverted skits. These included the perfect blonde Swedish family in all its blonde haired creepiness, some truly dark hitmen nuns and two perversely chirpy news anchors – just to name a few. They delivered punch after punch of dizzying humour; the combination of slapstick and wit eliciting genuine laughs from the audience, the type of deep belly laughter that traditional Shakespearean comedy lacks in a contemporary audience. A particular reference to George Prové needs to be made, whose debut as Sarah, arguably the world’s sassiest secretary, had the audience in hysterics. In fact, the whole cast’s input was impressive, their use of props such as the handheld water spray, a play on the tempestuous storms that characterise Shakespearean tragedy, adding to the play’s resounding bathos. These metatheatrical aspects, also seen in the more direct comments to ‘the next act’, established a connection with the audience, enhanced by the intimate setting of the bar.
Although we were warned at the beginning that one would be viewing an ‘unpolished’ version of Bob, a trial before the company tour in France and at the Fringe, it is safe to say the company has nothing to worry about. Bob graced us with a uniquely relativistic portrayal of Shakespeare, showing that when a much-treasured plot is supplemented with modern humour it can still be greatly appreciated within a modern context. Even if this is still too unorthodox for some, at the very least, Bob can claim that it is the only Bard-inspired production where the satisfaction of ‘cutting into a perfectly ripe avocado’ is mentioned in a closing soliloquy.