The first part to the Shakespeare Gala was a performance from The Salon Collective called Shakespeare:Direct, featuring a compilation of different scenes from Shakespeare's plays all performed in the traditional method. This traditional method is known as the 'cue script' method, and it involves the actors learning only their lines, and a two word cue to these. This means that they had never actually performed the scenes together and made for an interesting show. They had a prompt for when a cue was missed or a line lost, which meant the performances weren't polished in the way you would see on stage normally. However, they were incredibly well performed, with clear talent and energy from the cast, notably an excellent performance from Lawrence Carmichael as Shylock.
This method also made the interaction between characters seem more natural, particularly between Laurie Stevens as Desdemona and Katherine Kingston as Emilia. However, occasionally there were moments where the actors weren't quite sure who they were talking to, like in The Winter's Tale scene. While I was familiar with almost all of the scenes I think this could have been harder to understand for someone who didn't know the plot lines. Despite this however it was a really fun and engaging way of seeing how Shakespeare's plays might actually have been performed in his own time.
After an interval we returned to see The Rhapsodes by Extempore Theatre in the second part, the actors dove straight in, speaking to members of the audience in a 'Shakespearean' language. They explained how the show was going to work, they were going to bring us a Shakespeare style play, performed in entirely iambic pentameter, based on suggestions from the audience. After a quick, cheer-based vote, we decided the genre would be a comedy and shout out from the audience suggested the title should be 'The Wives of Bath'. They then explained that as a prologue to the play they would perform a verse in the style of Chaucer based on the story of one of the audience member's ancestors. We heard from someone who may be distantly related to Guy Fawkes, perfect material for a Shakespeare play.
So they launched into this prologue, then the play itself, kicking of the story of Milo and Guido, two men in Bath who had read about how to woo a wife and the aim of the quest is to woo both women. While clearly not really a very typical Shakespeare play, they did retain all of the usual elements, showing multiple characters a 'wooing scene', what they called a 'hey nonny' song, cross dressing disguises, and of course a happy ending. Throughout they looked to the audience for suggestions, deliberately challenging each other as coming up with amusing 'punishments' for when the rhythm or rhyme schemes were broken. Although I have seen improvised drama before I have never seen anything like this! The duo were extraordinarily talented and incredibly clever, clearly stealing known Shakespearean lines and phrases in some places, and working entirely from imagination in others. They were quick, sharp and incredibly funny and witty, and the response from the audience was just incredible. The actors, constantly broke the fourth wall, explaining what they were doing and encouraging audience engagement, which made the show fun and accessible, even to those who aren't huge fans of Shakespeare. All in all it was hands down one of the best performances I have ever seen.