"Though this be madness, yet there is method in't." Hamlet
Across a triptych of scenes Ruff Trade Theatre explores, to comedic effect, various Shakespearean characters who have exhibited signs of madness. There are a wealth of characters to draw off of from the Bard's body of work but, from the antic disposition of Hamlet through to the drug-induced love of Titania, the group have picked three of Shakespeare's most iconic plays and placed characters from these into the rooms of three different therapists.
The first scene of the night is with Hamlet, a character ripe for parody. A text often studied at school, Hamlet's worthiness here is gently prodded as our therapist attempts to diagnose the patient. It's interesting to consider how Hamlet's madness would have been approached if it took place today, given the ambiguity of the causes of madness. The next scene involves a marriage counsellor and one of Shakespeare's more troubled couples, the Macbeths. The counsellor picks at the coded language the Macbeths use as they skirt around the murderous act they are to commit. The piece ends on the troubled Titania, re-imagined as a Hollywood star, and explores her questionable relationship with the ass-headed Bottom.
Each of these scenes finds an interesting angle for these recognisable characters to be explored and the cast were able to develop a strong vein of humour throughout the evening, which the audience rewarded generously. The sharpest of the scenes is the one involving the Macbeths as it feels that this is the one that most exemplifies the ensembles' skills. The scene moves at a fast past, with the audience watching the couple snipe at each other while Lady Macbeth exerts her influence over her husband. It makes a solid pitch for a sitcom starring the Macbeths. The other two scenes are engaging but don't quite reach the heights of the Macbeth scene. Hamlet feels like a text which is constantly reinterpreted by scholars and theatre makers, meaning that it is a struggle to find much new here, while the use of A Midsummer Night's Dream here feels a stretch, given the night's overarching theme.
The trio of Ruff Trade Theatre (who also wrote the piece) perform the play with gusto and display an obvious chemistry. Jeremy Allen makes a fun Hamlet and marriage counsellor, with a lyrical cameo as Bottom, while Lee Woodward is a wonderfully imposing Macbeth. But it is Jodana Janse van Vuuren who makes the most noticeable impact as Hamlet's therapist, Lady Macbeth and Titania, traversing the notable shifts in the characters played with great skill. Overall the cast are slick and work well together.
Shakespeare has proved an inspiration for works of literature stretching far beyond his death. Analyse Thou is a fun addition to this body of work, exploring three very famous Shakespearean characters to great comedic effect.