By Jessica Taurins
Entering to the sounds of bardcore – parody music where modern songs are performed with flutes and lyres – the Motley Bauhaus stage is well-set for the audience to enjoy another mash-up in Shakespeare Ghostbusters. On the spookiest of October nights, the narrator hands out jelly beans to adults and children alike, improvising his way through Shakespearean-style dialogue with the crowd. The atmosphere is wonderful, and continues throughout the hilarious show.
Shakespearean dialogue is surprisingly nuanced despite occasionally sounding like Yoda slipped back into 1500s England. The great bard himself was (obviously) a skilled writer and filled his shows with wit and innuendo, and luckily this retelling of Ghostbusters in his style by Toronto based improv / sketch group The Coincidence Men is particularly faithful. While the style becomes a tiny bit grating by the end of the show (enough with the tapes of the VHS and the libraries of the public!) the comedy hits spot on every time and the innuendos – both scripted and visual – were hysterical to say the least.
The show is at its best for lovers of Ghostbusters or 80s nostalgia, and kids (or kids-at-heart) who still love a little slapstick. The story is a great condensed retelling of the film, picking out important moments and characters and boiling them down to their most basic traits. Venkman (Danny McGinlay) is a womaniser, Stantz (Rob Lloyd) is a goofball, Spengler (Elysia Janssen) is stoic and focused, and Zeddemore (Zac Rose) is thoughtful and imposing. Each member of the cast also typically plays more than one character – in great Shakespearean form – and there are a number of members of the chorus to supplement the cast as well. McGinlay is a standout as Venkman, and the performers playing Dana and Louis are fantastic as well.
On the other hand, the slapstick nature of the show did become tiring. Shakespeare is well-known for including physical comedy and slapstick in some of his more comedic writings, but the feeling of chaotic movement among the well-performed soliloquies and dramatic moments felt somewhat out of place for this show. Still, the kids dressed up in their little Halloween costumes were in hysterics, so perhaps in this case I’m the only one not getting it!
Aside from the performers, the best part of the show were the handmade props and puppets. Built by award-winning designer Donna Prince, the Slimer, Terror Dogs, and Stay-Puft himself were brought to life onstage using puppetry and outstanding design elements. Seeing the puppeteers moving the ghosts around the stage was an absolute delight and a truly impressive feat. In addition, every one of the important ghostbusting props were built, from the proton pack to the ghost prison, many of them with puppeteered moving elements of their own.
With all elements coming together to create a wonderfully entertaining show, Shakespeare Ghostbusters is a fun night out for lovers of the bard, the original Ghostbusters story, or those who love a little saucy pun.