Given the rarified air Shakespeare occupies in our culture, it can be easy to forget that his plays were the popular entertainment of his day. Before we were following the romantic entanglements of The Bachelor, we were rooting for Viola and Orsino to get together, and before we all watched Masterchef and learnt how to treat our vegetables, we were chucking them at performers who didn't live up to our standards. The idea that you watch his plays silently in a darkened theatre? A relatively recent invention.
Back in the day, seeing one of his plays was a typically rowdy affair, with crowds loudly voicing their approval (or disapproval), particularly the groundlings, who would pay a penny to stand in the yard of the Globe Theatre.
The team at Bar'd Work is trying to recapture some of that spirit with their "Shakesbeer sessions" of comedies performed not in quiet theatres, but around patrons at a pub. Yes, there is a risk of audience participation, so we'd recommend getting a few pints in before the show kicks off.
Bar'd Work recently toured Sydney pubs with a sold-out production of Much Ado About Nothing, and are back with Twelfth Night, taking the comedy to pubs all around the city in August and September. If you're not familiar with the play, it's packed with mistaken identities and some of the most colourful characters Shakespeare ever created.
This version is directed by Chris Huntly-Turner and produced by James Haxby. Both have performed at the Pop-Up Globe, and they know their Shakespeare back-to-front. So they've been able to cut down the play to a neat and totally satisfying 90 minutes, which will give you plenty of time to keep the party going after the show is done.
If music be the booze of love, drink up.