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April 2004
Shakespeare's Villains - Steven Berkoff - Oxford Playhouse
Steven Berkoff
Steven Berkoff

Shakespeare's Villains

Monday 19th April - Wednesday 21st April

The Oxford Playhouse

Tickets: £13 - £20

 

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By Sarah Vanstone

Dressed in black and hopping around the stage in the manner of various Shakespeare characters, changing between commentary mode and acting mode, he is like a pliable piece of play dough, keeping our interest the whole time. Even in the commentary bits which feel a bit like a college lecture or a theory acting class, we are never sure if he is being himself or still acting a role. It is enough to inspire anyone into a Shakespeare fan or a stage thespian.

I particularly liked his point on what Shakespeare deals with most in his plays: love. Love that makes you dance and love that tears you apart. It is the absence of love which creates the villain, someone who is motivated solely by their own lusts, regardless of the pain it may cause to others. Steven Berkoff seems to relish this evil quality in all its glory, even looking a bit daemon like himself.

Moving through each of Shakespeare's main villains Berkoff sorts them into types. Macbeth is a wannabe villain, (influenced by Lady Macbeth) Shylock is the bloodthirsty villain, Iago is the mediocre villain, (jealous of those around him) and Oberon is the innocent villain, being a fairy he does not immediately seem evil, but in fact, is the original drug pusher. Hamlet was also classed as a villain, which I didn't completely agree with, but it is a fair point that he goes from being a philosophy student to a serial killer within 6 months.

Bringing in comedy throughout, Steven Berkoff manages to make Shakespeare and the theatre not only relevant but also appealing. The show is slick and fast paced, the end coming abruptly and as a surprise, with no apparent conclusion, but this makes the whole act more memorable. Well worth seeing.

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