Russell Kane meets Shakespeare

Russell Kane takes on the bawdy bard Russell Kane takes on the bawdy bard
Posted: Thu Mar 4 2010

When William Shakespeare approached Time Out to offer an exclusive interview, his only stipulation was that Russell Kane be the man to quiz him. We think it went well.

It's a risky lunch. One of the world's most famous playwrights, and I choose to do his first interview since 1616 in Pizza Express, Portland Place. William turns up 15 minutes late, stuttering as he catches his Henslowe & Pheasant doublet on a yucca plant.

'I pray thee excuse me thus, for I am later than an apology from an Australian government.' Bang - he hits me with his first simile, before verily ordering some dough balls. I'm interested in what he thinks of the city, how it's changed.

'I did, with fear blacker than its self betokens take, on the Northern Line, a journey which, though celerous in time and technology, was slower than a fisherman's packhorse.' Good point, Shakespeare - and satirical too. He's impressed by the Underground, though, I can tell.

He works himself into a fervour describing the 'throbbing humanity' of rush hour, and the 'stairs which seem to know thy head, and convey thee downwards into London's stomach'. He's no less eloquent about some of the new towns. Clapham, or Claphamvillageton, draws his particular praise. The upwardly mobile, metrosexual elites seem to remind him of his more successful all-boy productions back in The Rose's heyday.

'Clapham, 'tis fairer than an albino's hair, with many eateries of repute, and thin folk who doth prate in high-pitch knavery - often calling out “Ollie” or “Jemima”, and trading in fair pastes and unguents from hummus to tzatziki.' Here he becomes animated, knocking balsamic vinegar on to the the white tiles. ''Tis black, this vinegar, like my gums' - and we have a good laugh at his tertiary syphilis.

After appetisers I order some pasta. It's hard to imagine that a genius who can write a four-hour blank verse play in less than two weeks could take so long to choose a pizza. He seems happy with the idea of a Sloppy Giuseppe - indeed it could be a character in 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona'.

I notice him looking out to the street: ''Tis my Barouche box, I, in that disabl'd space, more than ably parked it.' Indeed, it's London's roads which seem to confound him most. Our roads, he observes, are less busy than they were in 1612 - certainly quicker, and yet we have to pay a congestion charge for their usage. Wills seems to see injustice in this.

'Most treacherous liege, this mayor; how he charges at thy roads, 'tis an unfair way to take the fairway. And from underneath the false canopy of such fair hair does the floppy mayor, flop in power. I correct him, telling him it was Ken Livingstone's work, not Boris's.

'The weasely knave? He who did, from the guts of hell, bring the bus that bends? To be round a corner and on the straight - 'tis a paradox - a dangerous twist in fate, and one that drives blind into unseen lives.'

I can see him getting agitated, and I'm not looking forward to talking about London's flagship blank verse theatre. Forward-thinkers see it as the perfect Shakespearean venue, stick-in-the-muds a mere modern-day upstart; but how about the man himself?

'The Globe? 'Tis fine indeed!' Phew. I breathe a sigh of relief and pour his fourth glass of Valpolicella. ''Tis a cylinder with many nooks. And benches not of fine silk, but hard wood, that do ache and numb the buttocks during drama. And peasants may, for five pounds, stand and be rudely shunted by the play. 'Tis as it should be. Punishingly good!'

He finds it hilarious that people argue about his plays' authorship. 'We were all on mead and when on it, off our tits, as thou sayest now. I wak'd next morn, finding Dekker or Marlowe with a horse show on his head. Who wrote what, who knows?'

So what does he think of London's drinking scene now? Not just bars and trendy clubs in central London, but the messy little Friday-night high streets, too. ''Tis most engaging. Thine high streets are messier than a toddler's drawing. Thy fine females of Croydon and Enfield: why they are easier than a level one Sudoku.'

I feel my heart sinking as William works himself into a pervy fervour. 'Oh, and this magic potion ye have, Bacardi Breezer! How it blows fair breezes in their brains. How its fruits turn females of Farringdon fruity. Aye. They drink it in Islington, and display their womanhoods. I desire them as all of Girls Aloud combined - the ginger one removed.'

The meal finishes and William stumbles from our table. He turns around, my idol, and I'm hoping for some sublime farewell nugget, a metaphysical truth as he departs. But no, as he bundles through the door, he shouts this.

'Russell - I hope the Northern Line's not still fuck'd.' That's poetry.

Russell Kane's 'Fakespeare' runs at Soho Theatre, Tue Mar 9-13. His award-nominated 'Human Dressage' is at the Bloomsbury Theatre, June 10.