SEE THIS! Mimbre’s Fierce Sisters
Five of Shakespeare's most feisty female characters, including a transgender Rosalind, are brought to life in this provocative and witty after-dark acrobatic promenade piece at the Bard's former family home.
Flinging herself on-and-off Jill Berelowitz’s sphere, part of His Mind’s Eye sculpture in the contemporary gardens of Shakespeare’s New Place, acrobat Arielle Lauzon cries out: “Frailty, thy name is woman”.
Playing Katherine from Taming of the Shrew she is dressed in Elizabethan costume, only with short, shaved hair and white trainers on her feet. After a short pause in an American accent she says: “Really? Seriously? Frail?” Leaning towards a woman in the audience, Arielle asks laughing: “Are you Frail?”
All-female London-based acrobatic company, Mimbre, offer a fresh feminist/trans take on Shakespeare in new commission, Fierce Sisters. They have chosen to bring to life five of his most feisty female characters in this compelling winter evening promenade piece. It challenges the stereotypes of how women are portrayed – their appearance and sexual identity scrutinised.
Amazing acrobatics, visually stunning lighting, fire-pits and a zig-zag of washing lines with white sheets blowing in the wind, form part of this illuminating and provocative production. The gardens on which Shakespeare’s former family home once stood has been transformed into a magical after-dark space – with arbours covered in fairy lights and the garden’s ancient Mulberry trees strikingly lit up in purple. Small wooden desks or ‘interactive stations’, with jellybeans to help yourself to, are strewn across the lawn where audiences can record their thoughts and feelings.
After opening with Taming of the Shrew we walk through to the Victorian Great Garden to a trio of fire-pits where Adèle Thompson’s Lady Macbeth makes a dramatic appearance – a ghostly shadow emerging from behind a white sheet on a washing line. Next up Much Ado‘s Beatrice – Madi Maxwell-Libby – gives a clever, witty and pertinent monologue on how Shakespeare is staged today. Her speech touches on Emma Rice’s sacking “for using lighting at The Globe”, ageing, beauty and sexual identity. “Four hundred years ago women were not allowed to play on stage; 400 years later what makes a woman?” she asks the audience.
Moving on to the Sunken Knot Garden we find As You Like It’s Rosalind, played by statuesque Reece Lyons, in a quirky wooden dressing room surrounded by mirrors. She delivers a touching personal reflection on cross-dressing actors and transgender identities today, stripping off to reveal her undergarments and her true self. “If beauty unfolds why do women like me decide to transition?”
This radical one-hour immersive spectacle ends with an original aerial take on the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, with Juliet bathed in blue light balancing on ropes from the roof and walls of the first floor viewing platform. It’s a breath-taking sight against the dark night sky and Rebecca Solomon makes it look effortless.
Familiar texts are visibly rejuvenated by being seen from a feminist angle, performed with physical force, energy and wit. Enjoy a little bit of female anarchy in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon. Rebel teens will love it!
Fierce Sisters at Shakespeare’s New Place is only on until Saturday Dec 15, book now for tickets here: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust