To celebrate the recent 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, one independent drama company is planning a series of the great man’s plays with a modern twist.
The Millennial Theatre Company for Millennials is situated in a trendy borough of London that is home to a plethora of pop-up art galleries, theatres, organic coffee shops and confused, angry locals slowly being airbrushed out of existence by the unyielding yoke of gentrification.
Indeed this chic quarter is so fashionable that it foregoes the archaic nominative traditions that have historically been used to label residents of an area as being residents of that particular area, and is often referred to by those in the know as simply The Borough with No Name.
The company’s innovative re-imaginings of the Bard’s work are designed to attract a whole new audience of young, vibrant trendsetters to the world of community theatre. Its tagline of “Drama: It’s Dramatic!” underlines the simple approach of its director, Fiach Atticus Higgins-Collins.
“Young people want to be entertained,” says Higgins-Collins. “Shakespeare’s works have a lot of extraneous nuance and subtext that tends to confuse people. We’ve just focused on keeping the drama, and that’s what our theatre is all about: Drama.”
The last word is whispered with the sincerity of a true artist at work. His ground-breaking vision is one of theatre as social network, in which the audience plays an active part in proceedings.
“They’re encouraged to Tweet their reactions scene by scene, to live blog the plays, to put pictures on Instagram,” explains the director.
“The audience is our portal to the digital world,” he says with a theatrical and rather complex hand gesture that lasts several seconds.
So what can people hope for from yet another modern Shakespeare adaptation?
“Whatever happens it’s going to be dramatic,” promises Higgins-Collins, “very dramatic.”
To give us a taste of what we can expect the company has kindly provided the following guide to the programme of plays, with a brief synopsis of each one.
The King of Denmark is having problems with paranormal activity in his royal residence. He needs to put his mind at ease so he can get back to being fiscally prudent and enjoying football and expensive beer in moderation. So who’s he gonna call? That’s right – Ghost Büsters!
Not to be confused with any existent trademarked fictional paranormal detectives, Ghost Büsters are Scandinavia’s premier exorcism specialists. Which of course means that they have their own reality TV show on Danish satellite channel Kanal Umlaut.
Follow the exploits of the team, Lars, Kristian, Lars Kristian and Magnusson Lars Magnusson as they investigate the ghoulish goings-on at Castle Hamlet. Will they succeed in ridding the place of its spectral intruders before the important visit of the Norwegian Minister for Fishing? What supernatural device does Lars Kristian find in the Queen’s underwear drawer? And which of the house servants comes under increasing suspicion as the full story is revealed in a devastating and dramatic denouement? To be there or not to be there – there is no question!
Romeo and Juliet
This timeless love story is brought into the digital age in this brave adaptation. Romeo is bored with meeting the same dull, vacuous girls on Tinder, and is feeling hopeless. When he comes across Juliet’s profile, however, it’s love at first swipe.
The two share stories, laughs and animal memes as Romeo falls deeper in love with this seemingly perfect woman. Her answer to every question is exactly the response he had hoped for; every text is witty and self-deprecating; she shares every one of his hobbies, interests and rather vanilla sexual fantasies. Romeo is besotted – he must meet her in person.
However the frisson of romance is dissolved in a heartbreaking and dramatic twist when Juliet turns out to be a Google drone that had been deployed for marketing purposes in order to improve their targeted advertising algorithms. Romeo is crushed, and after sharing some valuable insurance policy price-comparing information, and a somewhat clumsy yet beautiful kiss, the two part ways forever.
Nobody wants to hear about a boring old bunch of Richards, Henrys and Johns so the Bard’s oeuvre of historical plays have been replaced with a majestic and moving tribute to the current Queen and her family. In fact most of the play centres on Prince William and Princess Catherine, since Twitter polls have shown that they’re the most popular royals among most key demographics. The Queen and Prince Philip are actually quite far down the list behind all of their great-grandchildren, some of their pets and even a few of Princess Charlotte’s teddy bears.
There is also the fact that a large number of millennials are somewhat hazy on the particulars of the monarchy; many of them think that the Queen is either David Cameron’s mum, or the woman who invented paper money.
The action of the play, therefore, is mostly based around the morning of an OK Magazine photo shoot in William and Catherine’s stately mansion. The drama unfolds as our protagonists are forced to deal with lighting problems, make-up shortages, and a delightfully whimsical last-minute wardrobe change after a hilarious (and dramatic) juice spillage.
The play also presents us with several tense sub-plots such as Prince George’s traumatic flashbacks to his brave battle against chickenpox, and Princess Charlotte’s touching personal struggle to learn how to use a spoon to eat her yoghurt.
Othello is a Syrian refugee who attempts to flee his war-torn homeland with his family to start a new life in Europe. The story follows his heartbreaking struggle in the face of adversity.
Othello’s journey begins with a narrow escape from death in his country’s bloody civil war, which impels him to seek a new life for his loved ones. The family overcome many physical, emotional, financial and political obstacles on their odyssey to the safe haven of Europe, enduring oppression, rebuttal and failure at every turn.
Eventually Othello and his family are successfully processed and granted asylum to live and work in Europe. Many months after they had set out on the long road to meet their uncertain future, they finally arrive at their new home: a sleepy English seaside village that reminds Othello of his grandfather’s home town which he used to visit as a boy. He is relieved beyond words, beyond emotions; relieved, content and even a little proud of what he has achieved for his family.
Their travails along the way have made them stronger and brought them closer to each other than they had ever thought possible. They wake at last to a dawn full of promise and possibility.
Unfortunately two weeks later Britain votes to leave the EU and they are promptly sent home.
This tale of a married couple seduced and corrupted by the promise of political power is transposed to the more glamorous setting of the US for a contemporary audience, because nobody cares about Scottish independence.
The gullible, power-hungry Macbeth manages to get elected President through nefarious means, while his cold, calculating wife is the real power behind the throne.
Years after her husband’s career has finished, the cunning Lady Macbeth plots a return to power. Spurred on by her ruthless ambition, hurt by the indiscretions of her husband and supported by supremely powerful vested interests, this reptilian warmonger looks set to claim the Presidency for herself, with only a court Fool standing in her way on the other side of the political divide.
Enter the brave Macduff, a plain-speaking, honest merchant, and a member of the Macbeths’ own court. His is a hopeless task as he attempts to stand up for the rights of the downtrodden and defy the might of the Macbeth dynasty. However his wit, intelligence and integrity convince the people of the realm that the last thing they need is another Macbeth on the throne, and the vile harridan is defeated.
Juxtaposing this classic tale of human suffering and familial conflict with the trappings of the modern entertainment industry, this adaptation sees the Lear family take their dispute to the ultimate arbiter of fairness and justice in the land: Mr. Jeremy Kyle.
The absurdly wealthy landowner Lear, a mean-tempered, conservative war veteran, is terminally ill and wishes to divide his estate among his three daughters. Regan, the eldest, is married to a successful City broker and has raised a family of her own. Goneril, the middle child, is a partner at one of the country’s top law firms. Both appear on the show to fulsomely profess their love and respect for their father.
Cordelia, the youngest, has always been different, and has not spoken to her father for many years. She identifies as a non-binary pangender individual who lives an austere, self-sufficient life on an alpaca farm in Cumbria with her life partner Esperanza, with whom she has adopted six children, each from a different African country. They earn a little extra money by making Anarchist Party woollen jumpers that they sell online.
The explosive and dramatic showdown between estranged father and daughter is one you won’t want to miss. Can Lear and Cordelia grow to accept each other before it’s too late? Will Jeremy’s sage judgement help Lear to overcome his heteronormative bias and embrace his little girl’s life choices? Or will the drama be too much to keep this dysfunctional family from crumbling apart? Drama!
Climate change is having a more egregious impact on our planet as each year goes by, and this retelling serves as a prophetic warning about its dangers.
As prevailing weather conditions become more erratic around the globe, the Pacific Ocean becomes one of the most turbulent regions, being struck almost daily by violent storms. One fateful day a super storm with immensely powerful wind speed hits just a few miles off the US coastline, causing a massive waterspout.
This spout causes thousand of the sea’s most fearsome (and most dramatic) creatures, great white sharks, to be pulled out of the ocean depths and deposited onto the streets of downtown LA, resulting in chaotic scenes of epic proportions.
* The Millennial Company’s legal team has advised that this synopsis be accompanied by a reminder that the company’s recent legal battle with the Syfy channel was settled out of court, and that the details of said case shall remain private by special court order.
Elizabeth II Part II
This one hasn’t been written yet, but it will just be the most popular characters from Part I repeating the catchphrases that trended the most over and over again.