Preview: Shakesbeers Showdown: The Bard Awakens (Spur-Of-The-Moment Shakespeare Collective)

This is Shakespeare like you’ve probably never seen before. Part drinking game, part classical theatre, Shakesbeers Showdown: The Bard Awakens pits bard against bard to see who can deliver the best cold read of Shakespeare’s most noted works – all while downing a cold pint every time the mess up a line. Hilarity is sure to ensue. The best part? It’s all for a good cause, benefiting the Shakespeare-In-Hospitals Program that strives to break down physical, social and economic barriers in the healthcare/nursing sector through the use of classical performance theatre.

Get your tickets now, because this theatrical spectacular is on for one night only: Sunday, April 24th at The Rivoli (334 Queen Street West).

We had a chance to chat with Victoria Urquhart, show host and Artistic/Executive Director of the Spur-Of-The-Moment Shakespeare Collective.

What can people expect from the show?

Competitors read from the first folio of Shakespeare’s works — for anyone not familiar with the first folio, the spelling of words are absurd — “s” is often printed as “f”; “v” and “u” are interchanged; there are extra letters; crazy stuff! And if you make an error, then you drink. Plus, there is some audience interaction as well as some pretty creative Shakespearean heckling from the crowd!

Do the lines get more interesting as the show progresses?

You bet! To recap previous years: We created an entire round based off a great Stratford actor who entered the competition and actually screwed up every line. They were very drunk by the end. We became a Google trend.

Do we need alcohol to enjoy Shakespeare?

Kids, don’t try this at home. This is not a full Shakespeare production. The alcohol is simply a frame-work to create a unique challenge for our competitors, who range from fans to professionals to get together, share their passion and have a raucous good time. You don’t have to be a professional to be good at this.

Why do his words hold such relevance today?

Shakespeare was prescient of the human condition long before psychology existed. His words are beautiful and musical. So much that his works are the second most-referenced book in Western Civilization. After the Bible. So he’s around because he’s good and because he’s been around. Also, he makes for great drinking games.

What’s our favourite work from the first folio?

The Balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet: lines are given to different characters, the scansion (rhythm or meter) is different, the punctuation is in some weird spots and the spellings are atrocious!

What does supporting the Shakespeare in Hospitals Program mean to you?

So, it’s like this: When we think about accessibility, we think of a ramp with the universal wheelchair sign. But accessibility can be so many more things, especially in theatre. We make Shakespeare hearable for patients struggling with mental health issues who may not be able to hear about certain images. We bring Shakespeare to people’s bedsides when they can’t leave. Sometimes, we just bring a conversation about our craft to people who want to get up and create. Sometimes, we just bring a conversation — it has nothing to do with theatre, but the patient hasn’t talked to another human being that’s not a staff member in months, and they want to hear something, anything else.

We see theatre for more reasons than just to escape, or be entertained. Shakespeare-In-Hospitals has just as many uses as any other piece of theatre, because the audiences that we entertain have the same thoughts, joys and fears as any of us do.

That shouldn’t stop to focus on “getting better“, but somehow, that idea has been built up in our society. I could write a whole show about it, and ask for serious reflection on the time and place that we are living in (and some people already are). Or, you know, I could do something about it, and create programming that provides a solution. And talks about it at the same time.