William Shakespeare. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know his name, who he is, and the legacy that he left behind – shaping and defining the English language with his words, and effortlessly telling dramatic and passionate tales of history, comedy, romance, and tragedy.
406 years after his death, his legacy is strong and can be found in the most unlikely places. For me, this is undeniably prominent with Soothplayers: Completely Improvised Shakespeare. Sure, they don’t perform Shakespeare’s sonnets or plays word-for-word. However, what they do is quite phenomenal.
With their quick wit and naturally comic timing, five members of Soothplayers every night (except on Wednesdays) at the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, perform a play themed entirely on a title suggested (or more so yelled) by members of the audience. The troupe do so convincingly in Shakespearean tongue, the cast of the night consisting of Adam Hembree, Katherine Weaver, Brenna Dixon, Sophie Power, and John Marc Desengano, with music accompanied by folk duo Morrigan and Wilding; Carly Wilding on the harp and Kyle Morrigan on the violin.
On the night I attended, the suggest play title was ‘The Queen and Adam Lambert’ derived from an audience member’s ‘2020 Queen + Adam Lambert Australian Stadium Tour’ t-shirt. And although Shakespeare himself may be long dead, his spirit lives on through these improvised geniuses.
‘The Queen and Adam Lambert’ ended up not being about a British rock band and a former American Idol contestant with mutant lungs, but rather about a beloved ‘killer’ Queen of England who was generous to her subjects and fed them cake every day.
Despite being a perfect monarch, her trusted advisor Adam Lambert misleads Her Majesty, suggesting that in the France’s eyes, her quiet and happy country appeared weak. Under Adam’s influence, The Queen decided to stop giving cake to her people every day, instead making the distribution less frequent to once every second day, not long declining further to only once a week.
Under Adam’s continuous manipulative guise, he suggests to The French Ambassador that The Queen is no longer fit to rule and successfully convinces France to invade England. All because Her Royal Highness could only name 3 out of 7 English desserts, yet somehow could easily name many French delicacies.
While this is happening, there is unrequited love, love lost, and an incredibly sad tavern owner. The people choose to defend their country despite their poverty and decide to use unripe citrus and oranges as ammunition for their catapults.
The night that I attended was filled with laughter, fun, hilarity, cleverly dropped Queen lyric puns, and an epic villainy death scene with Adam Lambert’s famous last words quoting the lyrics from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The cast were on fire, the accents were great, and they never missed a beat. Seriously, you had to be there.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read Shakespeare, never watched any of his plays, nor have seen any movies inspired by his work. While it does help to be a fan of Shakespeare, it is not a requirement for patrons to have a good time at Soothplayers: Completely Improvised Shakespeare.
Not a single face in the audience that night was unmoved. Everyone laughed, myself included. I was in stitches. And I felt privileged to have witnessed something very special that would only occur on that night. If not for the love of Shakespeare, one should attend to witness the art, love, and talent of improvised comedy. It is evident that the cast of Soothplayers are masters of their craft and are in their finest forms.
Every show is different. Every night is special. And honestly, I can’t wait to go back. Shakespeare would have been proud. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to have to look up 7 different English desserts because I too seriously couldn’t think of any at the time!
Soothplayers: Completely Improvised Shakespeare is now on at the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and is playing at Trades Hall, ETU Ballroom until April 12th.
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