Skip to content


The Stories of Shakey P
Published on Thursday, 16 May 2013

Promotional Image

4 stars

The Warren (venue website)
12, 25-27 May, 2:30pm-3:25pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 Parental Guidance. Under-17's must be accompanied by an adult.

This is an interesting one. From a quick skim over the programme blurb – “classical playwriting meets hip-hop, Shakespeare’s best-known works, a riveting contemporary slant” – I’d assumed I was going to hear the Bard for the masses, an accessible take on the ageless stories targeted at those who hadn’t heard them before. Host Charlie Dupré does indeed rap his way through Shakespeare’s best-known tales like a kind of Elizabethan Eminem, but his act is essentially an hour-long in-joke, which you very definitely need a working knowledge of the Folio to properly enjoy. So, this show’s not quite I thought it was – but I enjoyed it for what it is.

Dupré looks a bit preppy for a rap star, but perhaps that’s part of the gag.  In any case, he dives quickly into an imagined “MC battle” – a war of words between Marlowe and Shakespeare, ably capturing the unexpected emergence of the new kid’s talent (and much enhanced an amusing live accompaniment on the cello and violin).  With Marlowe despatched to relative obscurity, the way is clear for the Bard – and Dupré’s treatment of his Collected Works is, in its way, respectful, while often very funny too.

Dupré’s witty rhymes take the form of an extended plot summary, galloping through an entire play in the space of ten minutes or so.  We find Richard III on the psychiatrist’s couch, at first lamenting and then embracing the unflattering traits which Shakespeare bestowed on him.  Dupré’s Othello gives voice to both jealousy and anger, perhaps with echoes of the casual misogyny of which real-world hip-hop is so often accused.  Macbeth is reconstructed from the viewpoint of the witches, offering a hilarious slant on exactly how they stage-managed it all, and Hamlet has some juicy moments of comedic indecision – as well as an almost-frightening portrayal of his split personality, and a surprisingly poignant conclusion.

But here’s the thing.  The pastiche is much more enjoyable when you know the play in question – and I mean really know it, so you can spot all the references and echoes of Shakespeare’s words.  Macbeth, for example, was a delight to me, whereas I wasn’t quite so taken by Richard III, a script I’m less familiar with.  From that point of view, I’m puzzled by the omission of Romeo and Juliet – surely that has to be one of the top four Shakespeare plays we all studied at school?  And interestingly, when Dupré gave Marlowe one last guest spot in the form of Dr Faustus, I felt the in-joke count dropped a little; you didn’t need to know the plot to enjoy his beautifully measured Mephistopheles, contrasted against the restless energy of Faust.

An attempt at improvised freestyle in the middle was, I’m afraid, somewhat ill-advised, but that was a brief intrusion into a slick and well-presented show.  If you know your Bard – but don’t feel the need to treat him with an excess of reverence – then I think you’ll enjoy your time with Shakey P.  It’s clever, quirky, and once or twice left me shaking with laughter.  In short, it’s the essence of the Fringe.

<< 179 Hackney Road   Albert Einstein: Relativi... >>