The culture: ‘Measure for Measure’ by William Shakespeare, retold by Cathy Naden as part of Forced Entertainment’s complete works series
The cheap seats: Free – live streamed to my bedroom via the Guardian
Forced Entertainment’s latest theatrical venture is a much needed breath of fresh air amidst the starry casts and high-budget London productions that Shakespeare usually demands. The experimental company don’t need Benedict Cumberbatch or sky high ticket prices to tell Will’s tales: re-enacting plays with household objects, they’re ambitiously and imaginatively live-streaming the Complete Works of Shakespeare.
In this Measure for Measure, Claudio enters guarded by two bottles of Tippex. Isabella is a dainty china teacup and the Duke is played by a bottle of deodorant, hidden inside an empty toilet roll when he disguises himself as a monk. It’s like puppetry with no strings attached. Very apt for a play about liberty, Forced Entertainment have freed Shakespeare from all that makes it daunting – the language, the ticket prices, the exclusivity of the physical theatre – by streaming it for free and opting for a summary approach over a line-by-line reading. Cathy Naden makes the play incredibly accessible, presenting her hour-long rendition with the knowing brevity of a GCSE English teacher prepping her class for a Shakespeare exam, flashes of wit, and that pinch of female scepticism which the play’s dubious moral code and infamous ending require.
It’s a tribute to the power of the story, and Naden’s calm and considered telling of it, that watching the contents of a kitchen cupboard and a stationery drawer be moved around a table top is so compelling. The inanimate objects seem to have strong opinions and deep emotions and somehow watching Angelo, a bottle of Copydex, become consumed by lust for the cup that represents novice nun Isabella doesn’t seem ridiculous at all.
I loved it so much that I’m off to reenact Timon of Athens with my toiletries.