No Bells and Whistles Company
Sharing Shakespeare

Devised and directed by Antony Holland

Dates and Venue 14-16, 21-23 September 2009 | Jericho Arts Centre.

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Antony Holland and his company shared Shakespeare in a most entertaining and illuminating way. The evening opened with Antony Holland reminiscing about Shakespeare and his work and explaining the structure of the verse and language used in the texts. He then illustrated how this verse is the natural rhythm of English speech and went on the say how much easier it for an actor to memorize these texts than are the rhythmless and short sentenced dialogues in most modern dramas.

By using only the text without all the trappings of modern theatrical scenery, costumes and other distracting influences, the clarity and beauty of the speech and its full meaning is there for the audience to give it its full attention.

This was demonstrated by Holland and a company of young actors in short scenes from King Lear and the Merchant of Venice. The company was seated on either side of he bare stage, all wearing everyday clothes. The scenes were announced by one of the actors and performed either from memory or readings.

As King Lear, Holland changed sensitively and believably from an authoritarian and jovial ruler to a shocked and bewildered old man. His horror at the thought that he might be losing his senses was communicated to this audience, and his final reconciliation with himself as a benign and gentle old man was a truly moving performance.

As Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Holland was amusing, thoughtful, menacing and terrifying as well as heartbreakingly defeated at the hands of the young lawyer Portia and the taunting young men at the trial. The tension built gradually throughout the short acts to the dramatic climax of the trial and then closed with the destroyed Shylock arousing sympathy from the audience, leaving the audience to ponder who are the more cruel.

The experience of being absorbed by the language well spoken and intelligently delivered proved Holland’s point that extraneous distractions are unnecessary for the full engagement and enchantment of an audience by such a performance as this.

A great experience.

© 2009 Jane Penistan