The travelling theatre company’s performance at this year’s Glastonbury Festival is an amusing collection of Bard-inspired tales – ★★★
Why do we hear so little about travelling theatre companies? Hidden away in the woods surrounding Worthy Farm in Somerset, a world-leading collective – the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre Company – had a rather fitting backdrop to perform their Shakespearean production.
An assortment of short comedic and musical sequences, the play (with a running time of around half an hour) comes without any sense of structure. Renditions on a guitar and accordion aid some transitions, but when The Woods’ staging offers several performance spots – including a wooden balcony overlooking the square stage – it becomes a rushed search to find the source of a monologue or particular piece of dialogue. Actors, meanwhile, have to quickly navigate the set and change into several complex and imaginatively designed costumes.
While some outfits are unconventional, the comedy in Footsbarn’s piece is a bit more typical. Slapstick gags and fourth wall breaks appear in abundance as characters clamour to play the role of Juliet Capulet, in a routine which is over-reliant on mispronunciation (“Mr Shakey-speare” and several familiar alternatives to ‘Romeo’) as a comedic tool.
Elsewhere, a game of charades, with the answer being a famous Shakespeare quote, also produces some laughs in what is otherwise a rather long and strenuous sketch.
With the comedy straying on the light side, it is the makeup and costume design, alongside some specific performances, which are of particular merit. One cast member’s portrayal of William Shakespeare – complete with impressive makeup to accentuate his cheekbones – is a comfortable guiding role for the production. Another member delivers solid recitals of Shakespeare’s monologues, including the famed balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. This is where this short production does well.
A surprising find in the corners of Glastonbury, the Footsbarn Theatre Company’s play is a solid break away from the main attractions, offering a satisfactory way to spend half an hour.
More information about the Footsbarn Theatre Company can be found on their official website.