Review: Shakesqueer (Etcetera Theatre)

Little Attic Productions returned to Camden this month to present two queer takes on the Bard: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Rosalie and Juliet.

At just over an hour’s running time, it feels a tall order to get into the skin of such iconic plays, but in Rosalie and Juliet, at least, this doesn’t prove a problem.

In Dream (directed and adapted by Laurie Fahy; produced by Maddy Chisholm-Scott), Helena (Robyn Faye) and Hermia (Annie Haworth) explore their attraction at a party in the 1970s.

With the main plot of the play jettisoned, leaving two pairs of teenagers navigating booze, jealousy, and showing-off, this was perfectly watchable and often very funny but lacked the tricks and the magic of the original.

Production photo for Shakesqueer: A Midsummer Night's Dream

However, Lysander (Sean Chambers) gives off definite teen boy vibes as he staggers, flirts, and dances badly; Demetrius (Jack Medlin) is equally ill-at-ease on the dancefloor but seems to be toying with both the girls.

Helena is sweetly crushing on her more confident friend, while their developing relationship is left open, with a moment of closeness and a sense of doubt, both hinting at the complex web of love in the original Dream.

Rosalie and Juliet (directed and adapted by Lorna McCoid; produced by Laura Plumley) has a wider cast of characters and a current focus on oil and climate change.

This is why the Capulets and the Montagues have their ongoing feud, which may prevent their daughters from finding love together. So we are firmly in a present where women can marry and lead households.

We meet the two mothers on a TV debate, while Juliet’s older sister Carrie (Lord Capulet in Shakespeare’s day, a materialist and power-grabber) hosts her birthday party.

Production photo for Shakesqueer: Rosalie and Juliet

Juliet (Nina Fidderman) is set to marry the vain and awkward Paris (Nadia Jackson, who also plays the oil millionaire Lady C), but as in the original play, her eyes alight on the reserved Rosalie (Plumley) and quickly escalates to lust/love.

By making every character female (the Friar becomes bar manager Laurel; Mercutio, Benvolio and Tybalt become Mercy, Bennie, and Tilda) this play gains a lot of queer power and gives the characters new directions for the actors to explore.

There is also a pleasing symmetry between the plays with the touching of heads in a moment of contemplation and understanding. It reaches into how potent and passionate young love can be.

Shakesqueer is an entertaining show that looks with a new perspective with some choices that will reach those who are committed fans of Shakespeare as well as those curious to explore these plays for the first time.


Image credit: Juan Lobo