If you think that Shakespeare’s just for grown-ups, think again. Billy Shakes – Wonderboy, the new show from the Wrongsemble theatre company, proves that the Bard can be enjoyed by boys and girls of any age.
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre has popped up in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower for its second summer outing, and new for this year is the introduction of a show that’s aimed firmly at families. While children are more than welcome at the classic plays – in fact our eldest (9) and his classmates really enjoyed a school visit to Twelfth Night – the language and length will be a challenge for younger kids. This is where Billy Shakes – Wonderboy! comes in.
An hour in length and taking place during the daytime, it’s been programmed with families in mind. The action takes place on a small stage in front of the main stage, occasionally spilling into the audience who’ve chosen to sit in the groundlings (you can also watch from the seated area). Whether you’re sitting on a seat or the floor, it’s a stunning place to watch a show and particularly intriguing for kids (what, no roof?!).
Billy Shakes tells the tale of Shakespeare’s early life and his transformation from aimless kid who gets under his mum’s feet and has to put up with his sisters’ bickering to playwright extraordinaire. Along the way we meet a cast of funny characters including an exasperated but encouraging teacher and a self-obsessed actor who the audience take great pleasure in pelting with fruit and vegetables. It’s just one of many joyful moments from a show that’s perfectly pitched for families.
There’s live music aplenty, giving the actors the perfect opportunity to showcase their many talents (the recorder never sounded so good). The tunes are so catchy that our four-year-old was singing ‘to be or not to be, to do or not to do…’ all afternoon. That’s just one of the clever ways that Billy Shakes weaves in snippets of real Shakespeare: there are famous quotes galore, all deftly worked in to give children a taste of the language and tales in a way that’s neither baffling nor patronising. The showl culminates in a lovely, inspiring reminder that there are stories in all of us; all we need to do is pick up our quill and start writing.
Billy Shakes – Wonderboy runs at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre on selected dates until 24th August 2019. Visit Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre’s website for more details.