Review: Madman William (online)

The Music Firm ptesents Naomi Claire Wallace’s Madman William, a show running just under an hour, for the Brighton Fringe’s digital strand.

Shakespeare (Edward Cherry) has writer’s block, and while he takes a nap and struggles with his next play, “a Dane, a Swain, and a Thane walk into a bar” – Hamlet (Jack Lee), Lear (Graham Elwell) and Macbeth (Duncan Campbell), tired of their tragic lives and miserable deaths.

Directed by Stacey Haber (who appears as Anne Hathaway), this show has a core of curiosity and a refreshing take on the Bard, but I found myself wanting a bit more from what I was seeing, whether in modern or period dress.

It isn’t entirely clear from just watching what we are seeing until six minutes in and characters introduce themselves. Three men of royal blood are unlikely to be down the pub, and three actors less likely to be consumed by their characters.

Screencap from Madman William

I love the idea of characters breaking out from page or stage to influence their own destinies, but Madman William doesn’t quite know where to take the initial idea. A strong starting potential is therefore lost.

All these Shakespearian characters flirt with madness – no wonder if they “are on somewhere, every hour of every day”. Then there’s the filming, which reminded me of a student art film, occasionally losing focus, sometimes washed out or artistically damaged.

Watching three unlikely friends having a boozy chat after hours can be fun, especially when the issue of actors who played the characters is discussed.

There is just no real difference between them, “products of his [Shakespeare’s] mind”. Sadly, when Romeo’s playful mate Mercutio (Joe Swift) turns up, this show falls apart and never really regains momentum.

You can stream Madman William during the Brighton Fringe, until 5 June, on the C Arts platform. Purchase your ticket here.