On tour with The Players
27 May 2021
We asked an expert panel to name their favourite comic characters in Shakespeare. (Some of their answers might surprise you.) Today, we begin the countdown with numbers ten, nine and eight.
Compiled by Andy McLean
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10. PUCK (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
In all of Shakespeare, there is probably no greater architect of anarchy than the mischievous fairy Puck. When four young lovers flee into an enchanted forest, Puck conjures chaos, calamity and bags of laughter.
But there’s more to Puck than pranks and one liners, as Alice Grundy, Associate Publisher at Brio Books, points out: “His playful, sardonic wit make for an excellent comedic foil to both Oberon and Bottom. While bawdy at times, Puck works as many jesters do – while making people laugh, he also speaks the truth: mortals are indeed fools.”
From July to November, Puck will be running amok in theatres across Australia, in Bell Shakespeare’s 2021 national touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
9. SIR TOBY BELCH (Twelfth Night)
In a play full of fools and tomfoolery, Sir Toby Belch is always mixed up in the mayhem. He’s the party animal who will go to any lengths to get a laugh from his audience – poking fun at po-faced Olivia, tricking the feeble-minded Sir Andrew, and entrapping pious Malvolio.
So far so funny. But it’s a more lowbrow reason that seals Sir Toby’s place in this top ten. Author and teacher Brendan P Kelso explains: “I’m going out on a limb here and definitely not picking the clubhouse leader. Heck, most would say he’s not even the funniest in his own play. But, for me, Sir Toby Belch gets the nod because I get kids to love melodramatic Shakespeare – and one of the best characters that kids can get behind is one who belches throughout the play!”
8. RICHARD III (Richard III)
He may be best known for his villainy, but Richard III is hilarious too, according to Bell Shakespeare Artistic Director Peter Evans: “Richard has a very particular kind of humour and it’s often at other people’s expense. He is the quintessential back-of-the-classroom naughty boy who doesn’t fear punishment.”
Bell Shakespeare Associate Director James Evans agrees: “That scene [Act III, Scene 7] where Richard is pretending to pray with the two clergymen is very funny. He plays it like a proper clown, putting on a character and winking at the audience. It’s a thrill watching that scene because he’s so amusing. Later, it dawns on you how awful he is and you feel bad for laughing at his antics!”
Peter Evans is directing – and James Evans is performing in – Bell Shakespeare’s production of Hamlet in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra from August – October this year.
In this interview, Peter Evans reflects on the enduring power of Richard III.
Listen to actor and writer Kate Mulvany discuss Richard III with James Evans in Bell Shakespeare’s Speak The Speech podcast.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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