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Shakespeare's Bones



Many Theatre companies throughout the world regularly present Shakespeare’s plays in very different ways; the approach we take revolves around providing answers to this contention:


"Taking as a given truth Richard Eyre’s statement that Shakespeare gave us the DNA of our Theatre, how then can it best be passed down the line to firstly give new and sustainable life to his own work, and also to create new work that is inspired, influenced by, or flows out from the tradition Shakespeare worked in?"


New Plays

Re-imagining Shakespeare's original plays, and creating plays that draw on Shakespeare's life, are a good way of re-ordering Shakespeare's Bones i.e. creating completely new works that utilise the raw material (or DNA) that Shakespeare passed down to us:- 


  • The sequels allow us to use the original play's themes, characters and words, thus perpetuating Shakespeare's legacy. However, in doing so, we are also allowed to subvert them, as determined by the 'givens' of the new play's setting, which makes the audience question their original assumptions.
  • When we start to link what we know about Shakespeare's life with what we find in his plays, a rich seam of creative energy is unleashed. Aspects of his life inform the works he created and, to a degree, vice versa.


What links all the new plays are:-


  • Shakespeare’s original words and characters feature strongly throughout
  • New words are written to blend in with / complement the original words
  • Major themes from the original are re-explored but from very different angles

The Shakespeare Bones plays that are inspired by Shakespeare's plays are:-


Cordelia / Fool
An Audience with Sir John Falstaff
The Killing of Queen Gertrude
King Lear (alone)
Ophelia, Princess of Denmark
Tempest Fugit / Prospero's Will
Macbeth Killing Time 
Romeo & Juliet for all Time
Time Out of Joint

For more details about the performance of these plays, please click here.


What our Shakespeare  Bones work to date has uncovered:


  • It is possible to write new words in such a way that they do not detract from, or jar with, the accompanying Shakespeare words
  • Each of the plays in this section have been able to present themes and character developments that complement those that are found in the original plays but are at the same time sufficiently different
  • In time audiences of the LivingShakespeare plays may well be motivated to revisit the original Shakespeare plays, thus helping to keep his work alive
  • A whole new format of play is available to audiences that is very different to that of the original plays; they are shorter in length, have all characters on stage throughout, and are less plot-driven. 

Background to the Plays


For a summary of review quotes for our Shakespeare Bones plays, please click here.


Queen Gertrude

In 2019 we hope to deliver the next of our new plays - Queen Gertrude. This is a one-woman play that focuses on the character of Gertrude, Hamlet's mother and Claudius' wife. We get her perspective on not only the events of the play Hamlet but also other themes, such as how women throughout time can be marginalised in the world, our views on death and life which are to be found in the original play. More details to follow will be posted on this website when they are available.


Cordelia / Fool 

Powerful one-man play, a thought-provoking reworking of King Lear. It examines King Lear through the actor stepping into two of its most compelling roles, Cordelia and Fool. Are the roles of Cordelia and Fool two sides of the same kind - the presence of Cordelia never really goes away, instead does Shakespeare reinvent her as Fool, to get Lear to finally understand the folly of his ways. This reworking of Shakespeare's original text provides a unique insight into the mind of the disturbed King Lear himself. Premiered in Buxton, Bristol and Birmingham in 2018.


 *** Winner of the Birmingham Fest Best Adaptation Award for 2018 *** 

An Audience with Sir John Falstaff

Falstaff is here to tell us the real truth about his life as one of Literature's biggest characters, as well as his fractured relationship with his one-time mucker, William Shakespeare. As well as regaling the audience with anecdotes and larger-than-life stories, he has, at last, a chance to tell it all from his point of view, especially Shakespeare's total misrepresentation of the real Falstaff. Quotes from Shakespeare’s plays are used, as well as Falstaff’s very own words. Premiered in Buxton, Bristol and Birmingham in 2018.


King Lear (alone)

Was Shakespeare right to kill off King Lear at the end of his play? As our starting point, we take Kent’s question at the end of the play: “Is this the Promised End?" With only Lear on stage, we are taken through his past mistakes, his current anguish, and his faint hopes for redemption. This is a strong piece that attempts to show the events of the original Shakespeare play through the thoughts and feelings of the tragic King.

 *** Nominated for the GM Fringe Best Adaptation Award 2018 *** 


 *** Nominated for the GM Fringe Best Spoken Word Award 2018 *** 


Below is a selection of quotes from Reviews and Audience Feedback: 


2018 GM Fringe


"I thoroughly enjoyed King Lear (alone). It’s great play, made even better by Young’s strong work in bringing this version of Lear to life. Like all good literary reimaginings, it has made me reconsider the original and has changed the way I look at King Lear. I would highly recommend it."


"Bramwell’s script skilfully blends Shakespeare’s original text with backstories and dialogue of his own invention, allowing the audience to have a deeper understanding of Lear’s relationship with his favourite daughter, Cordelia."


"Young’s powerful performance holds the audience’s attention, and Lear is by turns petulant, arrogant, self-loathing and deeply needy, yet he always retains some degree of sympathy even as the play refuses to gloss over Lear’s intense flaws."


"Of course, in a one-man production, the play stands or falls on the quality of the actor. In Bob Young, King Lear (Alone) has at its core a wholehearted and committed performer, capable of conveying the quicksilver changes of mood that epitomise Lear’s character."


"This was a thoroughly satisfying and thought-provoking reworking of a familiar play. "


2017 Bath Fringe


"A magnificent, strong piece of high art theatre playing nicely with Shakespeare’s King Lear."


"This play, written by Frank Bramwell, surprises us with the depths of the protagonist’s psyche, which are flawlessly shown by Bob Young’s one-of-its-kind acting. These two are the stage’s perfect match, making King Lear (alone) a powerful voice on the subject of humanity and the worth of truth and words."


"Although the way the play is written makes it easy to understand to any audience (even if you’ve never read or seen King Lear before it is still for you!), theatre and Shakespeare lovers will find even more pleasure in it as Bramwell has for us many surprises and references. Both ways, however, it is a cultural must-see."


"Young’s performance in general was a powerhouse. I left in no doubt that for the hour he spent on the stage he was Lear.  Every action, every word, every thought was Lear’s. His voice was strong and powerful and his emotional range was completely believable. He used the stage well without wandering aimlessly and interacted so naturally with characters that weren’t really there."


2016 GM Fringe, Camden Fringe

"I left the theatre feeling like I’d been exposed to a flawed individual at their most honest – and that honesty is something as terrifying, courageous and honourable as ruling a nation..... the outstanding performance of Bob Young and Bramwell’s truthful presentation of humanity was well worth the watch." 


"King Lear (Alone) is a gripping production and the formidable performance given by Bob Young makes it compelling viewing." 

"Bob Young in the title role, is a powerful performer. His tormented character takes shape thanks to his profound voice, whilst his presence on stage appears carefully studied..... In Bob Young's poignant (portayal), the play is quite intense. It's ground-breaking angle will definitely appeal to the culture vultures.” 

2015 Birmingham Fest, Buxton Festival Fringe


"The production gives an insight into the inner thoughts and feelings of King Lear, exploring the role from the perspective of both an audience and an actor and goes into the heart of the character.


"Frank Bramwell directed well using all the space that the Old Joint Stock Theatre provides. Bramwell made excellent use of the dark and eerie atmosphere with slow music as a background to Lear’s speeches throughout the production. General blocking and the ideas behind Lear’s actions were well thought out."


"Bob Young, as Lear, gave a strong and nuanced performance, particularly given that he had to stand in late for the original actor. Being alone contributes to the nihilism, as well as the sense that Lear may be solely responsible for his tragic downfall. King Lear (Alone) gives the audience much to think about, with rich symbolism in an engaging interpretation."


Romeo & Juliet for all Time

What if we had the chance to put right the failings of our lived lives - this is the contention behind this play. Romeo & Juliet, with the aid of their 'ghostly' father Friar Lawrence, have been given an hour to relive their earlier lives to earn the right to go through eternity. Shakespeare's glorious words are heard over and over again, each time being brought newly back to life. The play received 2 four-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, and then a Hairline Highlight Award for being one of the top ten plays that stood head and shoulders above other reviewed plays. Revived at the Old Joint Stock Theatre Birmingham July 2012.


Below is a selection of quotes from Reviews and Audience Feedback; 


2012 Old Joint Stock Theatre

2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Buxton Fringe Festival, Birmingham Fringe Festival


"The playwright, Frank Bramwell, has struck on a very clever idea and created an intelligently written play which luckily never slips into an English Literature style discussion. An amusing and moving performance."


"I don't think I've ever seen such raw energy and physical commitment in a Fringe performance  the audience loved them and showed it enthusiastically at the close."


"This was a complex and very clever new look at the play. Take your sharpest wits with you, and listen carefully, but also be prepared to be carried along by the pace, skill and style of the presentation."


"It's very rare for our staff to be so united in their glowing praise of a Fringe Show but all those who saw it were stunned, and everyone unable to make it this time was very disappointed to have missed out. James, the venue manager, genuinely rated your show among the top six Fringe shows he has seen in his decade working at the Festival. An outstanding show, overall it was both a pleasure and an honour to have Romeo & Juliet For All Time in our venue."


Ophelia, Princess of Denmark

Ophelia, Princess of Denmark. She is mad. And dead. And trapped in time with Hamlet and Claudius, who seem to have a little problem re-adjusting to their changed circumstances. A play that re-examines the themes and issues that Shakespeare raised in his original play - and some that he didn't. 


Below is a selection of quotes from Reviews and Audience Feedback; 


2012 Old Joint Stock Theatre


“It stands as an imaginative, fairly free-wheeling response to the original, in which the delight exists in the exploration itself and in the spirit of invention.”

“The relationships between Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius and others, various, are taken apart and differently examined; the play put me in mind of the mathematical discipline of permutations and combinations. Debates within the play are both serious and playful.”

“Sharp performances from the three actors. Rebecca Rogers creates with great naturalness; Ben Norris’s Hamlet has great charm.”


Tempest Fugit / Prospero's Will

Tempest fugit: Prospero's Will is based on The Tempest, the third in the line of Frank Bramwell's specially written plays to re-energise Shakespeares plays. Prospero is marooned on the magical Island and is soon re-joined by Caliban, Ariel, Miranda and Ferdinand; there follows a deep exploration of the original plays inner workings as we go through Prospero's mind, a great opportunity to see the relationship of Shakespeare's characters from a totally different perspective.


Below is a selection of quotes from Reviews and Audience Feedback; 


2006 Greenwich Playhouse, London


"Very imaginative idea! I was very impressed with this performance."


"All of the performances were excellent."


"Congratulations on a most imaginative production with excellent performances by the cast. Bring more of these ideas to Greenwich or, at least, to London."


"Well worth catching, an absolute gem! The time certainly flew by!"


". . . when it comes to Shakespeare "re-written" I get very sceptical. But I was proven wrong as Heart Productions pulled out all the stops and the audience was treated to a delicious journey through Prospero's messed-up mind."

“I went to see this play not knowing what to expect, and I was most impressed with everything I saw. As well as committed, talented actors, all aspects of the production greatly added to the whole evening's entertainment.

"The play itself is a wonderful re-exploration of Shakespeare's original, from a totally different perspective."


Macbeth Killing Time

Macbeth, who has been waiting in Eternity for 400 years, is now being tried for the crimes of the original tragedy by two jobbing Angels, Kramm and Delos. But was he really the evil killer that Shakespeare made him out to be - or were his 'crimes' in fact the crimes of us all? A fascinating reverse-spin on the original play. The play was performed in Edinburgh and was awarded three and four stars by reviewers.


Below is a selection of quotes from Reviews and Audience Feedback;


2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival


". . . a strong piece of Theatre. The mix of the Bards script and Frank Bramwell's words works well here and is helped by the enthusiastic actors."


"Frank Bramwell's play, however, is that very rare bird, a genuinely unusual take on the play, which remains true to the spirit (and the words) of the original whilst making us question our assumptions about it."


"It's a very original and clever piece of work . . . very compelling and, at times, even amusing . . "


“Excellent, evocative, emotional, real, entertaining!”


“This production was not as expected, not dreary Shakespeare but a fine twist by Bramwell. Excellent production for the fringe.”


“ . . . a beautiful play, beautifully performed.”

Time Out of Joint


Will Shakespeare is alone, desperately trying to finalise the script of Hamlet. During the long night-time hours he has two female visitors; one is the Dark Lady of his sonnets, the other is a 'mere milkmaind' who was in fact his first ever love. These muses provide him with rather more dramatic inspiration than he bargains  for . . . 


Below is a selection of quotes from Reviews and Audience Feedback; 


2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival


"What this play is very good at doing is raising an intrigued eyebrow. It constantly suggests possible inspirations for moments of Shakespeare's plots (I think all from 'Hamlet') and even certain turns of phrase."


"If you want to get an inside look at the trouble and turmoil swirling around in William Shakespeare’s head, look no further than the brilliantly conceived Time out of Joint premiering at the Edinburgh Festival."


"An absolute must-see for any Shakespeare fan or writer who’s ever had an encounter with writer’s block"

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