Review: Billy Shakes: Wonderboy! at York's Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre

“To get up or not to get up, to wash or not to wash.”

Billy Shakes: Wonderboy! (Photo: Antony Jones)
Billy Shakes: Wonderboy! (Photo: Antony Jones)

Just some of the daily dilemmas for Billy Shakes, the disinterested kid who would eventually become a certain celebrated playwright more commonly known as William Shakespeare.

According to this imagined childhood of Big Bard - with an early caveat to it possibly largely being wildly inaccurate - he really did not care one jot for writing, evoking, inspiring or anything really.

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“Billy dreamt of nothing; not of monsters, soldiers, war,” we are told as we sit in the intimate ‘groundlings’ courtyard of the Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York.

Billy Shakes: Wonderboy! (Photo: Antony Jones)

“Not of great shipwrecks, or princesses washed up on foreign shores! When Billy slept, he closed his eyes, and did no more than SNORE!”

Billy, played with splendid buffoonery by Harri Pitches, is joined by various characters (Victoria Brazier and Alyce Liburd seamlessly dipping in and out of a number of roles) for just under an hour to help tell the story of the boy who would become Shakespeare.

With each actor playing live music, plenty of gags involved, catchy songs and a tale laced with references to Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth, it is a fun-filled, ideal way to introduce children to his works.

Aimed at kids aged four and above, it certainly had mine transfixed - especially when some audience participation allowed for the throwing of rotten veg - and there was plenty of questions afterwards about this Shakespeare guy.

A little nod to The Greatest Showman did not go unnoticed by them either.

There is a chance to meet the actors afterwards with the pop-up theatre near Clifford’s Tower now firmly ensconced for a second successive summer, this show being a welcome addition to its usual fayre.

Rating: 4/5

Shows on selected mornings until August 24. www.shakespearesrosetheatre.com