What a charming, lively treat awaits Festival-goers, as well as passers-by, on the forecourt of the Opera House this July. Three members of Buxton's very own Drama League, Maria Carnegie, Robbie Carnegie and Dick Silson present the eagerly anticipated, much talked about Shakespeare Jukebox and once again they are on top form! For those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of this special and unique event, it works in a similar fashion to a traditional jukebox, only with a marvellous twist. The audience select scenes from thirteen of Shakespeare's plays and the actors bring them to life in a dynamic, witty and entertaining way. Donations are welcome, with all proceeds from the performances going to the Buxton Samaritans.
As the church clock strikes six, a sparse crowd rolls up and Taming of the Shrew is promptly selected. As one scene ends, the applause flows, the crowd grows and a humorous scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream is played out in front of our eyes. It has to be said that all three actors are impressive from the start and offer a series of worthy and fitting performances, all of which are set against the backdrop of the stunning Opera House. Maria Carnegie swiftly and cleverly moves between characters, bringing the "wall" to life in a visually dynamic fashion. In King Lear, she skilfully plays all three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia and is able to contrast the wickedness and false flattery of the two eldest, with the genuine love and devotion of the youngest. Her portrayal of the love-struck Juliet is equally convincing and I really felt her utter frustration as her nurse, played by the hilarious Dick Silson, teases her and withholds the long awaited news of Romeo. Robbie Carnegie was outstanding in his comical portrayal of a drunken Sir Toby Belch, his ever changing accents and words flowed as smoothly as a fine wine and nothing could quite match his splendid, word perfect delivery of the prologue from Henry V. Dick Silson demonstrated his versatility as an actor, one particularly memorable moment, (among so many it has to be said), is when he presented us with, "All the Worlds a Stage", not in the traditional authoritarian fashion, but in a superb Brummy accent! He positively shone as King Lear and left me wanting more! During the performance of Macbeth, all three actors moved around the forecourt (not to mention a red plastic box used to represent the cauldron), as the three witches, with energy, enthusiasm and dramatic effect.
Throughout the performances there was audience interaction, much to the delight of a young boy who played the moon with the help of a torch and Maria spontaneously managed to bring a dog into the action! It is a difficult task to keep up the momentum between such quick scene changes, but all three actors did their best to keep the patter going, much to the appreciation of the ever growing audience.
Shakespeare Jukebox is the link between the Fringe and The Festival. It enhances the overall experience for theatre-goers and the forecourt of the Opera House simply would feel very empty without it. I am certainly going back for more, as each night promises to be different. This really is street theatre at its best!