The University of St Andrews Performing Arts Fund Presents
By Catriona Scott
“Society’s messed up, your parents need therapy… Montague. How do you spell that?”
Dr William Bard is not the most competent of psychiatrists. Unfortunately for him, his patients aren’t exactly model citizens either. From murder to sleepwalking, drug problems to hallucinations, Dr Bard will have to try and help kings, lovers and even an actual donkey – or maybe that’s just that pretentious ass Nick Bottom.
What was the inspiration for this performance?
The inspiration for this performance came from a single joke about psychiatry, which forms the punchline of the script. The rest of the play emerged from discussion with friends and family as well as lots of my own ideas for how Shakespeare’s characters could work in this new setting; Macbeth seeing daggers in every Rorschach inkblot, for example.
Is theatre still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
I certainly think that it is, not only in exploration of new thought and ideas in contemporary plays, but through looking at older scripts, such as those by William Shakespeare, as an obvious example, in a new light. Although the audience collectively sees a show together, they will not all see the same things, and this leads to discussion not only of the performance itself but its intentions and the ideas behind it.
How did you become interested in making performance?
I have been acting since I was young, but I first began writing plays two years ago, as part of a student writing festival at the University of St Andrews. As part of this festival I wrote and directed my first play, and have subsequently written three more.
Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
As this particular play had already been performed in St Andrews under a different title, the approach to this show first began with editing the script in order to polish it and have it fit the Fringe’s runtimes. Having done this we held auditions, cast the show and rehearsed for two weeks in July prior to our move to Edinburgh.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope that the audience will have a good laugh, as the show is intended to be light hearted and entertaining, as opposed to a serious, in depth discussion of the problems many of Shakespeare’s characters face. I also hope they will experience lots of moments of recognition, not just from the more obvious jokes and puns but other references within the show - in terms of props, for example, such as Lady Macbeth using hand sanitizer throughout the first scene.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I tried to ensure we dealt with some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, and also tried to ensure that none of the jokes were too obscure. One of our reviews has stated that a basic understanding of the outlines of the plays referred to would be useful, but not essential to the audience’s overall enjoyment of the piece. In the writing process a lot of jokes that could have been too obscure were cut, and even the play’s title was changed in coming to the Fringe – when the show was first performed it was titled Antic Disposition, in reference to Hamlet’s putting ‘an antic disposition on’; that is, pretending to be mad.
Shakespeare Syndrome, a one act comedy, explores just what happens when several of William Shakespeare’s most beloved characters show up at Dr Bard’s office. How will Macbeth respond to the inkblot test? Is Richard III allowed to use the disabled parking space?
Will Hamlet ever be allowed to finish his soliloquy? Though this be madness, there’s no method in’t.
After a sell-out performance at the University of St Andrews, Catriona Scott’s new play Shakespeare Syndrome brings mystery and humour to the usually mundane world of a psychiatrist’s office. In the true spirit of Shakespeare, this energetic and refreshing family-friendly production makes no promises to explain the thoroughly inexplicable actions of his most colourful characters, but it is guaranteed to entertain, amuse, and bamboozle.