Prague Fringe 2012 Review: Shakespeare’s Kings and Clowns

Unpretentious and enjoyable

Lisette Allen

Written by Lisette Allen Published on 06.06.2012 16:26:59 (updated on 06.06.2012) Reading time: 2 minutes

As a British expat with anti-monarchist leanings, I was hard-pressed to find the right way to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Organise an anarchist’s tea party, perhaps? Knit my own Union Jack?

Fortunately, the Prague Fringe Festival’s program came to the rescue in the form of “Shakespeare’s Kings and Clowns”. Michael McEvoy is already something of a fringe legend, having previously presented hit shows based on Dickens, Orwell and, of course, that man from Stratford-upon-Avon.

This time McEvoy treats us to excerpts from more than a dozen of the Bard’s plays and switches from courtier to gravedigger to king with apparent ease. However, don’t book tickets expecting a Reduced Shakespeare Company style send-up. Michael plays it straight, but that doesn’t mean it’s all straight-laced – there are plenty of laughs to be had from the jokes that are there in the original text. McEvoy is a versatile performer who is equally convincing as obsequious courtier Polonius, self-deluding drunkard Falstaff, or conscious stricken murderer Macbeth.

Some actors think that doing Shakespeare properly means being pompous and mangling each soliloquy with exaggeratedly plummy vowels. Michael avoids these pitfalls, instead portraying the characters with pathos. The words which best sum up his acting style are warmth and humility. The only character I found slightly unconvincing was Hamlet’s evil uncle Claudius, but perhaps that’s because Michael is simply too likeable to play a thoroughly nasty villain.

The show includes plenty of well-known speeches – we hear Hamlet exclaim “Alas poor Yorick” and Macbeth cry out “Is this a dagger I see before me?” – but this is more than just the Bard’s greatest hits. I was very pleased to be introduced to Jack Cade, a pretender to the throne from Henry VI Part 2. This rabble-rousing rebel’s efforts to win over the crowd with daft promises – “there shall be no money and all shall eat and drink on my score” – provided the evening’s comic highlight.

Unpretentious and enjoyable, “Shakespeare’s Kings and Clowns” succeeds in being entertaining without resorting to silly slapstick or dumbing down. Recommended.

Shakespeare’s Kings and Clowns is at Divadlo Kampa at 8.15pm until 9th June. Tickets can be purchased from the venue or online via Ticketstream. See the Festival’s website for more details:

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