Bard in the Yard Review

Turbine Theatre – until 5 September 2020

Reviewed by Claire Roderick


William Shakespeare has been performing for small groups around the country this Summer, and the Turbine Theatre gave a larger audience the chance to see the bard in action as part of the On The Jetty season.

Victoria Baumgartner has written a charming and very human version of Shakespeare, played here by Emma Nihill, stuck in quarantine in London in 1605, and suffering from writer’s block. Weaving in modern lockdown themes and events with the plague of Jacobian London works a treat, with Will’s inability to bake an edible sourdough loaf a constant worry. The rivalry with Ben Jonson – who Will is convinced has managed to write numerous plays whilst Will has been speaking to the audience – is hilarious, and makes Will’s struggle for inspiration even funnier.

Having decided on the title “King Leonardo, His Three Daughters, and their Dog” the audience is taken on a whistle stop tour of different themes and styles as Will riffs on what a good play (and, more importantly, a financially successful play) should include. Watching Nihil crack up at her own “jokes” in the dog comedy scene from Two Gentlemen of Verona is knowingly cringe worthy and sweet at the same time, but once the comedy is out of the way, magic, witches, battles, kings and intrigue are explored with Nihill slipping seamlessly into scenes from Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, Henry V and Hamlet. Shakespeare’s personal life is also explored, with lots of throwaway lines and titbits that will thrill any Shakespeare fans.

Emma Nihill had the audience in the palm of her hand, and we could have sat and watched another hour of this unique and joyous celebration of creativity. A treat for theatre lovers, and a production that surely has a bright future introducing Shakespeare in schools?