Shakespeare Fight Club | WATSON

Shakespeare Fight Club | WATSONShakespeare is different things to different people. To some, his plays are about epic tragedy, intricate wordplay, exploration of the human condition and the grand traditions of the theatre. To others, they're a few awesome sword fight scenes and bits with witches with too much talking in between them.

Shakespeare Fight Club is kind of aimed at an audience of the second category. This batty romp from comedy duo WATSON (The Super Secret Awesome Show, 2011), takes as its premise a cabal of extreme Shakespeare enthusiasts who hold a secret tournament in which they enact classic Shakespearean battle scenes with such brutality that not everyone leaves alive. Two bumbling friends – these being Watson's Tegan Higginbotham and Adam McKenzie – find themselves enlisted in this tournament against their will and have to battle their way through broadsword conflicts, rapier duels, wrestling matches and vicious battles of wits. And, of course, witches.

The show is a riot of inspired silliness, perfectly suited for its late night timeslot. If it sounds like you need to have a degree in Renaissance Theatre Studies to get the jokes, you don't. Lampooning Shakespeare is a big part of the proceedings, obviously, but the references stick to the better known plays and most of the humour draws on slapstick, pop culture references and snappy banter.    

Higginbotham and McKenzie clearly know their way around Shakespeare but they bite their thumb, as it were, at any highbrow pretensions. The show cultivates a kind of late night TV sensibility, a mix of anything-can-happen-and-usually-does wackiness with yes-folks-these-are-the-jokes self-deprecation. They have great fun playing with theatrical staging, with some gleeful homespun special effects for the fight scenes, and deconstructing their own act. This deliberately shambolic and self-referential style is one which quite a few comic ensembles seem to be aiming for these days but WATSON have the shtick down to a tee.   

Higginbotham and McKenzie play off each other like siblings sharing a favourite game, with a warmth that invites others to play too. Their two back-up cast, Liam Ryan and Cameron McKenzie, who frequently step in as zany cameos or straight foils to the main duo's hijinks, get to carry their share of the attention rather than being merely support players. When they involve the audience, it's with a sense of welcoming people to take part in the fun rather than singling anyone out. Whether they're spouting soliloquies with mock gravitas, cackling in witches' hats over a collapsing cauldron prop or trading innuendos with a sleazy Caliban, WATSON are a constant joy to watch.  

The first rule of Shakespeare Fight Club, it is fair to guess, is that thou durst not speak of Shakespeare Fight Club. I reckon it's worth breaking that rule to give this show a mention, though.

Tegan Higginbotham and Adam McKenzie present
Shakespeare Fight Club

Venue: Victoria Hotel - Acacia Room | 215 Lt Collins St, Melbourne
Dates: 29 March - 21 April, 2012
Times: Thu-Sat 11pm, Sun 10pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $22 - $15
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 660 013 | at the door

Part of the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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