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Beats, the Bard and beehives

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

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"THE big man of Stratford would be spitting some beats," if he were working today, says Feargus Woods Dunlop, from New Old Friends theatre company.

He has a point.

The Bard certainly had the baggy pants, the bling, the facial hair and the neat way with earthy vernacular and swearing.

"Or he would be a blogger, or a Twittter fiend."

Feargus and a company of musical fools head to Neath's Gwyn Hall tonight at 7.30pm, to share their affectionate, irreverent take on the great man's works, in Silly Songs Of Shakespeare.

A serious actor too, Feargus reveres Shakespeare's big numbers, but, he says, there is always room, even in grown-up theatre, for a little daftness.

"One of the lovely facts I learned while bringing this show together was that the word silliness was actually one of the many words that was accredited to Shakespeare originally, which I am very pleased about."

Of course, even in the brooding tragedies there is more than a whiff of panto to the Bard's works.

And, says Feargus: "We have left the comedies alone because Shakespeare did comedy very well on his own, without us.

"So we have gone for Romeo And Juliet, King Lear and Othello and even in the tragedies there is quite a lot of falling over, mishaps, misunderstanding and silliness.

"So in our show we have Romeo And Juliet performed as a rap battle and Othello as a flamenco-influenced Mexican soap opera."

As well as making him look at the nuances of Shakespeare's works, penning the production with his partner, Heather Westwell, also led Feargus to a new appreciation of the classic song form. "As you can tell from my voice I am very street indeed.

"No, there isn't really a Bath massive. It isn't a hotbed of hip-hop but I do like a bit of it myself.

"At some point in the show we sample some of Will Smith's Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which is perhaps not at the cutting edge of hip-hop.

"But there is a lot of audience participation involved in the Romeo and Juliet rap which they seem to enjoy."

They will also be treated to the Fearg and the Sonnettes, probably the world's first Shakespearean tribute band, a classic 1960s girl group, complete with impressive beehives.

They turn out ditties about the authorship debate, feminism and the Bard, and the schoolroom classic, the iambic pentameter, along with some textbook 12-bar blues riffing.

"The show is funny first, Shakespeare second," says Feargus,

"It is something people who love Shakespeare will enjoy, because there are some real Shakespeare nuggets in there, but you don't have to be an expert to enjoy the show.

The show comes to a close at 9pm.

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