Getting down with Shakespeare

Funk It Up About Nothing – Theatre Royal Stratford East, 07 May 2011

It comes as little surprise to learn that the The Q Brothers, the group behind ‘Funk it up about nothin’, have previous when it comes to adapting Shakespeare for a modern audience. The show had been a hit at the Edinburgh festival and it’s clear that the cast are much more versatile than the slightly ramshackle approach might initially suggest.

Hidden below the surface is an awful lot of hard graft. Cutting Shakespeare in half and rewriting 95% of the dialogue should not be a task that anyone takes lightly, for no better evidence I point people towards Gnomeo and Juliet. Creating a tightly-written musical score that fits 75-minutes of continuous and fast-paced verse adds a whole another level of difficulty. And a third problem is that by placing it within the context of urban music means the audience you are aiming for will tell instantly whether we are talking genuine Prada or a Rada knock-off.

The choice of Much Ado About Nothing is extremely well-judged. It is very well suited to a hip-hop reimagining. The four leads are all too imaginable in the modern world – the pretty but vapid match of Claudio and Hero undermined all too easily by accusations of ‘being a ho’, while the quick-fire, pithy verbal sparring of Beatrice and Benedict seem a natural fit to a world of hip-hop battles and zinging one-line assaults, as thrown out by our nimble MC’s. Updating the play but remaining in verse creates a vivid sense of old and new combining – deep down we know this isn’t Shakespeare but the continually rhymes blended with the odd-line taken from the original works to disorient the audience until we are no longer entirely sure which play a reference to ‘licking the honeypot’ comes from. Continue Reading Here

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