Valentine’s Day. Bah humbug. Couples get herded onto a conveyor belt of set menus and overcrowded cinemas, singletons bemoan their dateless status while shovelling bucketfuls of Haagen Dazs into their faces. And meanwhile Hallmark count the millions they make from overpriced red tat.
It was in this spirit that I rolled up to UL Drama Soc’s production of Love Is Merely a Madness. The brainchild of Allison Prince, this brilliant compilation of Shakespeare’s finest romantic moments would be a fantastic way to introduce hormonal teenagers to the Bard. Anyone who had to endure a Shakespearean comedy for Junior Cert will know how difficult it is to translate his funny moments to a twenty-first century audience. It is to Drama Soc’s eternal credit that there were laugh-out-loud moments throughout.
Opening with a soliloquy from As You Like It in which we assured that “love is merely a madness,” before cutting into Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, the half an hour production whizzed through tragic, comic and utterly romantic Shakespearean moments, interspersed with love songs, old and new.
The excellent Jared Nadin and Jules Deutsch recreated the eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room scene from Romeo and Juliet. It is a testament to the pair that they managed to put their own stamp on the scene so beautifully done in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
We were then launched into Sonnet 116 where Deirdre Carey and Hugh O’Brien tell us that true love lasts a lifetime. It was then time for a change of tone with the outstanding Shane Vaughan as Parolles from All’s Well That Ends Well extolling the virtues of sex and the drawbacks of virginity. In a continuation of the comic vein, we had a scene from the Taming of the Shrew in which Petruchio (Conor Gibbons) disastrously attempts to woo Katharina (Michelle Revins).
This was followed by Elaine Keane giving us an impassioned monologue from The Tempest on first love. We were pitched back into comedy again with a fantastic scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Demetrius (Eugene Feeney) and Lysander (Shane Vaughan) are two lads in love with the same girl, Hermia (a great comic turn from Deirdre Carey). Unfortunately for all concerned they fall under a fairy spell which makes them fall in love with the first woman they see- their foe, Helena (a luminous Karen Murphy). Much confusion and comedy ensues, and this was one of the many highlights.
We had a brief snippet from Much Ado About Nothing with Conor Gibbons and Michelle Revins, before the most tragic scene of the night. Hamlet (Hugh O’Brien) ripped up the stage as he dumped Ophelia (Elaine Keane) with the most magnificent of Shakespearean insult. Hamlet rails against womankind in general and Elaine Keane portrayed the woman shattered in his wake convincingly.
Eugene Feeney managed to make Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) sound fresh, before Romeo and Juliet returned to conclude the show. A fabulous idea, winningly executed, this was truly Shakespeare as he is meant to be appreciated. Somewhere I think the wise old Bard is smiling.
This article appeared in An Focal on February 21 2011.