The Shakespeare Revue (Richmond Theatre)

The Shakespeare Revue (Richmond Theatre, until Saturday, November 12th)

Brushing up your Shakespeare couldn’t be more fun or more timely thanks to a talented company on tour with The Shakespeare Revue.

In this 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death it is a delight to see this revival of the pick and mix show that uses the Bard as its inspiration and gathers songs and sketches from a rich vault of treasures.

As Bernard Levin’s famous On Quoting Shakespeare reminds us at the beginning of the show, the author’s words are so much a part of everyday life all these years after they were written, that it’s absolutely right he should be thus saluted.

From music hall to Monty Python and from Footlights to Victoria Wood, Christopher Luscombe and Malcolm McKee’s tasty confection features some classic comedy as well as updating some of the numbers to include references to the American Presidential elections, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

The show is not so much a tribute to the swan of Avon as it is a collection of more contemporary takes on his work – a timeless reminder that all the world is still a stage.

The four energetic young performers here are joined by the 1994 show’s co-creator Malcolm McKee on piano and, as with all revues, if one part doesn’t quite hit the spot, then there’s something satisfyingly different only minutes later.

Alex Morgan is the most fun to watch, with accomplished and versatile performances in Victoria Wood’s Hamlet rehearsal sketch, Giving Notes, Python’s  man who speaks in anagrams (‘A shroe! A shroe! My dingkom for a shroe!’) and playing Romeo to a confused Lady Macbeth.

Lizzie Bea gets some of the best musical numbers, especially with the wistful tale of unrequited love Carrying a Torch by Drewe and Stiles, and one wishes there could have been a few more of these “straight” songs by top composers – another joy is Sondheim’s Fear No More.

Alex Scott Fairley is strong in Ronald Harwood’s curtain speech from The Dresser and The Night I Appeared as Macbeth with Anna Stolli perfect as the director of the Shakespeare Masterclass and channelling both Callas and Cleopatra in The Heroine the Opera House Forgot.

Other highlights include Perry Pontac’s brilliant cod Shakespeare And How is Hamlet? imagining what might have happened had the play continued beyond its final curtain; the Music Hall Shakespeare (“To be or not to be” sung to the tune of “Let’s all go down the Strand” is a real earworm); Maureen Lipman’s PC or not PC ; and the hilariously naughty English Lesson involving enthusiastic audience participation.

The Shakespeare Revue is irreverent, clever, warm, affectionate and wickedly funny but above all this lively show celebrates Shakespeare in fitting fashion proving there’s life in the old swan yet.

David Guest

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