Review: Russell Kane’s Fakespeare

MARC SHALET: ‘Fakespeare was enjoyable but I don’t think King Nigel will be rubbing shoulders with Henry V in next week’s essay’

girls aloud Henry V Jade Goody Luton Pizza Richard and Judy Russell Kane Shakespeare stephen hawking The Junction

Monday 17th May, 8.00 at The Junction 2.  £12.50

I have witnessed some odd combinations in my time. Hoi sin duck on a pizza. Tupac and Elton John appearing on the same record. Marmite on anything…This worldly experience left me well prepared for the clash of 21st century Essex Chavdom and Shakespearean style that comprises Fakespeare. However, it is a testament to Kane's evident knowledge and affection in regards to his source material that makes the hour-long show a more comfortable melding on stage than it seems on paper.

The show opens with Kane as King Nigellio, an Essex banker, about to perform 'self-toppage' as his empire crumbles around him in the wake of the credit crunch, the alternative to a life of Lidl being a sinister investment in land mines in Sudan. His foil in this dilemma is his secretary and mistress Donna from 'Billericoy', a stereotypical Essex girl in all but her ability to form a soliloquy. 

In terms of the genre of comedic homages to Shakespeare, Kane's play fares rather well. Unlike the mysteriously popular Reduced Shakespeare Company's show which fell flat in trying to crowbar a reference to every play at the cost of joke quality (Ok, Coriolanus has the word 'anus' in it. I get it.), Kane avoids approaching the source material with that all too cynical air of ironic distance and instead allows himself to get stuck into the very style of the bard, sticking to iambic pentameter throughout and creating a nuanced pastiche of Shakespeare's style that betrays Kane's status as an English graduate. 

Kane does an excellent job of crafting lengthy runs of similes such as the particularly fine example of the 'cockney rhyming slang banker' breathing new life into a well-trodden gag. Futhermore, towards the end of the play Donna begins to sporadically break into 1980s pop hits, an inventive twist on the mad female characters in Shakespeare's work.

However, beyond seeming witty and ambitious to a critic who is studying Shakespeare at this very moment in time is Fakespeare actually funny? Well, yes and no. Kane opens the show arguing the point that Shakespeare, if he was writing today, would have been focusing on cultural references and Kane squeezes a vast number into the play. Stephen Hawking, Girls Aloud, Jade Goody and Richard and Judy are all up for grabs and the jokes often seem a little easy but there is a fast enough hit rate to counter this. 

Kane's use of double entendre and simile are much stronger sources of humour and much truer to the style of ol' Shakey with a bawdy use of 'sterling pound' and the description of Nigellio's wife as an 'orange Rayleigh sow, as foreign to BJs as an art gallery to Luton' as prime examples.

Nevertheless, in its small scale with just two cast members the show feels like it is not living out its full potential. The concept feels fresh and is pitched at a level that appeases both the Cambridge English student and the general comedy fan but as an idea it could do so much more. It would be interesting to see how the idea would pan out on a larger scale. 

Fakespeare is admirable as a creative idea but gets stuck in the gap between Kane's sensibilities as a working class Essex comic and an admirer of Shakespeare's work, the execution is brilliant and deserves more than a lot of the easy jokes that litter the script. In conclusion, Fakespeare was enjoyable but I don't think King Nigel will be rubbing shoulders with Henry V in next week's essay. Now where's that hoi sin duck pizza?..