Theatre Review: Silent Shakespeare @ The Lion and Unicorn

Silent Shakespeare certainly seems like an interesting concept.

Many of the audience members at the Lion and Unicorn for theatre group To the Moon’s performance are clearly here out of intrigue. How do you take theatre that is synonymous with fine language and present it without words?

Whether it’s setting one of his tragedies in space, doing Romeo and Juliet set on a council estate or trying to cram his entire works into ninety minutes — finding different ways to present Shakespeare seems almost the norm now.

To the Moon’s performance has moments of brilliance but fails to hold an audience for the duration. All too often, it feels like watching actors prepare – wordlessly portraying scenes as a warm up before going out on stage.

It’s impossible for it not to come across a bit like a game of charades, as the audience is drawn into constantly guessing which play they’ve moved on to.

The performance is essentially a piece of wordless physical theatre. For this style to work, it needs to be extremely precise in its execution, which this isn’t. While the actors do work well together in places, many of the scenes feel quite messy.

Joseph Adefarasin
stands out for his portrayal of Puck during a brief interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Other easily identifiable scenes include Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.

An interesting moment comes when company member Sharon Burrell directs and moves the other actors into freeze frames depicting famous Shakespearean scenes. Unfortunately though, the idea is dragged out for too long and it begins to feel like a student production.

Interest has been rekindled in silent performance by The Artist, but while classic silent film actors evoke pathos and humour with their performances, it’s impossible to watch Silent Shakespeare without wishing that you were listening to the beautiful language of the plays.

There are good moments within the performance and the concept is fun, but it struggles to maintain pace and interest as a full-length piece. Being essentially a collection of scenes from different shows, it has no overarching narrative and feels quite disjointed.

Silent Shakespear is on at The Lion and Unicorn’s ‘Giant Olive Theatre’ at 7.30pm until Saturday 8 September. Tickets cost £12

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