Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2012  


Written and performed by Melanie Karin and David Benedict BrownThese two writers, performers are also excellent actors and they have produced a most unusual show that translates portions of Shakespeare’s best known plays, into moments of real theatre as reinterpreted through Hip Hop language and culture.

Hip Hop steps have now entered the world of contemporary dance and I have seen so many choreographers adapt these forms to classical music and historical narratives, the results are always exciting performances that bring all culture into the contemporary urban setting.  Most often it works. In this case, it did as well!

They have taken some of the best known of the Bard’s  monologues, written a résumé of the whole play around them and acted them out in that recent idiom, using all the gestures, the voice play, the rhythms and the body language necessary .  It was surprising to see how in many cases, the violence of the “gangsta rap” world suggested here,  corresponded so perfectly to the violence in much of Shakespeare and most often, the tone never faltered.

Most effective was their version of Richard III, as the raging, vengeful would be king who plans to wipe out his whole family to get the throne.  This is a terrible play about murder and lust and obsession with power where the  roaring Richard with the twisted arm (instead of the hunchback) came storming across the stage, angrier and angrier until he is turned into a complete frenzy of near  madness. There he is, spewing out  his hate and fury in that modern language so suited to Shakespeare’s  frenzy of rage. Benedict Brown pulled this one off because he is also a very good actor.

Same comments for Mélanie Karin as “Hamlet” and especially as Lady MacBeth where she shifts voices, lowers her tones, orchestrates her vocal chords, choreographs her body and astounds us all. Nice work!

It is just too bad that the acoustics in the Arts court Theatre are so bad!  That place needs a real theatre with proper wings, proper lighting and sound equipment and a stage that is suited for vocal and musical performances. As it was we really had to strain to hear, especially with a performance of this kind which is based on language and forms of language which are spoken very quickly and are not always recognizable.

Hip Hop Shakespeare, a good show, even if you are not a Hip Hop fan, you will be astounded by the way it all fits.  It plays in the Arts Court Theatre.

Iris Winston :

I went to Hip-Hop Shakespeare in some trepidation, knowing that this was a genre alien to me.

Although, that assumption was correct, the quality of the performances from Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown can only be admired. The pair offered selections from eight of the Bard’s plays in the styles of various well-known rap performers — clearly recognized by the majority of a delighted and amused audience.

Particularly powerful was Karin’s Lady MacBeth, à la LL Cool with the pair’s Titus Andronicus à la Eninem a close second. (And cool both were in dealing with the electronic difficulty of uncooperative mikes.)

Hip-Hop Shakespeare is first class of its type, even for some who prefer their classics in more traditional style.

Question for one parent: Why was there a six-year-old boy in the audience for a show that was certain to be heavily punctuated by crude language?