a goal! a goal! my kingdom for a goal!That could be the rallying cry of Shakespeare's Rugby Wars, a wild and energetic take on the three parts of Shakespeare's Henry VI and its follow-up, Richard III.
The best production yet by Upstart Crow, the Fringe-generated show featured some seriously broad, funny work by the large company, most of whom played an actual rugby match (or what looked like a pretty convincing facsimile to those of us not familiar with the game) while spouting tags from the Bard and a few contemporary epithets at the rival team.
The four plays deal with the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York -- represented by the red and white roses, respectively -- so the teams were dressed in appropriately coloured jerseys.
Adapters Matt Toner and Chris Coculuzzi did a fine job of cutting and pasting, moving the confused action of the plays along, and did their best to sort out an equally convoluted list of historic figures.
The production was brought to us by the Upstart Crow Sports Network, and best of all were the TV-like commentators, Toner as playwright Chris Marlowe and Stephen Flett as John Falstaff. These two could probably carry an hour of comedy improv on their own, but they were ably supported here by Seamus Dudley's Rafael Holinshed, a real-life historian who did on-the-field reporting, beginning with a Tudorial -- er, tutorial -- on rugby. Director Coculuzzi played Shakespeare, who was one of the refs.
Maybe it wasn't perfect Shakespeare, acting or rugby, but the show was engaging entertainment presented with great spirit. The cast's prayers were answered during the 11-day Fringe run, too. They never had to slog it out on a muddy field.
SHAKESPEARE'S RUGBY WARS by Chris Coculuzzi, Matt Toner and William Shakespeare, directed by Coculuzzi, with Toner, Stephen Flett, Seamus Dudley, Coculuzzi, Cliff Makinson, Lara Martin, Lesley Dowey and Sean Tyson. Presented by Upstart Crow and the Fringe at the Robert Street playing field. July 5-15. Pwyc. Rating: NNN