It is a rare occurrence one may find the words Shakespeare and The Beach Boys in the same sentence. Apart they represent one of the best-known English poets of all time and a Californian pop band from the 70s who wrote a few fairly catchy tunes.
These two wildly different cultural figures came together on the stage at Bower Ponds recently during the opening week of Prime Stock Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night for their annual Bard On Bower event.
Directors chose to take on one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies this year for their annual tribute, however it’s hard not to wonder what Shakespeare himself might have thought watching his words set to the sounds of The Beach Boys hit single, Surfer Girl.
While modern makes of Shakespeare’s work have been culturally appropriate in the last two decades through such Hollywood productions as Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 box office blow out rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
The film worked because it adapted Shakespeare’s play in a way that did not insult the dignity of his work. It is arguable that the pop culture combination of The Beach Boys and Shakespeare may very well degrade the integrity of the great poet’s work.
Prime Stock’s version of the famous tale featured near impeccable performances from lead cast members including Danielle LaRose who starred as Olivia, Erin Pettifor as Viola, Isiah Williams as Orsino, and JP Lord as Sebastian. The play by nature is a comedy with a plot based around the premise of a Viola-Olivia-Orsino love triangle with Prime Stock’s actors portraying their characters well while simultaneously delivering comedic lines and monologues that were bound to entertain the adults in the audience.
What Prime Stock missed was adding a PG 13 symbol onto the posters of their play. This may have prevented the many children in the audience and perhaps even those walking by in the highly public location from viewing actors portraying characters drinking openly to excess, all the while being clad in bikinis – a questionable wardrobe choice to be considered a family-friendly event.
Considering the modern take on the old play and the recent success others have found in doing the same over the past two decades it is understandable why a theatre company would wish to do the same. However with over 35 plays to choose from to pay tribute to the great Shakespeare there were perhaps other choices than Twelfth Night if the company wishes to remain a family-friendly event.
With a majority of Shakespeare’s work focusing on more mature themes such as murder, violence, drinking and conniving by the human race in general it can certainly be a struggle to find a single play that is by today’s cultural standards ‘family-friendly’.
While the addition of The Beach Boys tribute band playing catchy beach tunes did seem to entertain the kids in the crowd, the appropriateness of the content of Shakespeare’s play is questionable. One may argue the content likely eluded most of the children under the age of 12 in attendance, however they did have their eyes peeled on the underdressed women and both men and women portraying characters drinking to excess.