Jan 27

The Rabbits are Taking Shakespeare

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

A play or two by Shakespeare is included in the high school curricula in Canada. Most students get pushed through it and don’t pick up Shakespeare again, unless they go on to study English literature further in their academic careers.
I was an exception to that. I studied commerce as my academic career, but couldn’t deny my love for English literature. So I took a Shakespeare course, a full year of just the Bard. It was for that reason that One Yellow Rabbit’s Taking Shakespeare was so appealing.

The play tells of young twenty-four year old Murph (Denise Clarke) who is doing very badly in his university career, and his mother, the president of the university wants him to be mentored by Prof (John Murrell) so that he can ‘do better’.
Murph is by all description a directionless young man, he shows up at Prof’s house, sporting a Smurfs ‘Who is your Papa’ shirt and saying that the titles of Shakespearean plays are too long. Prof sleeps on the couch, loves his coffee and generally forgets what day it is, all the time.

Together, they begin to explore Othello, trying to carve out the meaning behind character motivations and scenes in the play. Murph illustrates the comedy of struggling through Shakespeare’s blank verse, ‘he had a stroke in his youth?’
As the play goes along, the characters on stage begin to fill out. We learn how Prof got attached to Shakespeare and how he feels about teaching. ‘We’re too old to teach it, by the time we’re able to understand it,’ he asserts.

Taking Shakespeare explores how relationships can be formed through literature, how it can dismantle the division between young and old. It questions how we view teachers and educators within society and whether we value them enough. It is well written, full of quick wit and genuine emotion.

Clarke portrays Murph with accurate style. It is quite amazing to see the range that Clarke can play, from last year’s vixen Helen in The Penelopiad to the egotistical mother in Smash Cut Freeze, to this. Fiona Kennedy decided not to adorn her in elaborate costuming, letting Clarke’s mannerisms and expressions depict a careless young man.

Murrell takes on the role as tortured prof nicely, reading the scenes from Othello with vigor.

The set of Prof’s living room is accurately messy. There are books strewed everywhere and the coffeemaker sits on the back table (So the theatre rightly smells like coffee and old books). When Prof gets angry, he dumps coffee on the open laptop.

Given One Yellow Rabbit’s previous work, such as Kawasaki Exit, and Gilgamesh La-Z-Boy, this entry into the 26th Annual High Performance Rodeo won’t blow you away. It isn’t that kind of play. But it is a charming full story about a relationship built through Shakespeare. And has its own appeal.

Taking Shakespeare runs tonight and tomorrow only. For more information on this play and more on the High Performance Rodeo go to www.hprodeo.ca

Photo Credit: Benjamin Laird

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