It’s Wednesday evening. I’ve made it halfway through the Shakespeare festival, and the last week of classes, and I’m not sure which is more stressful. I’ve already seen multiple “innovative re-workings” of Shakespeare scenes. All I want to do is chill out, maybe with a cup of tea, or a cookie. So I walk into Rector’s, but no, the Shakespeare festival has made it here, too. It was too late, I had already ordered tea. There was nowhere to run. Luckily, Play On provided a relaxed, pleasing performance.
The conceit is this: “what if all of Shakespeare’s songs were chill, acoustic tunes?” See, we have lyrics for a number of songs that would have shown up in Shakespeare’s plays. But, typically, there is no existing sheet music. So, whenever those plays are done, someone has to write something.
In this case, that was Oli Savage and Fiona Yelland. Their pieces were simple, with voice supported by a guitar or two, a cajon (in lay terms, a percussion box thing) and in one case a keyboard. But sometimes, simple is best. Every song was well arranged and made for great easy listening. Still, my favorite pieces were the more intricate ones that used all the performers, like the final number, “Over Hill, Over Dale,” from Midsummer’s Night Dream. Other songs came from As You Like it, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Twelth Night and more. My one issue would be that with the limited instrumental variety and genre constraints, by the end, the songs began to seem quite similar, and no longer held my attention to the degree they did in the first half of the hour.
It helped that all the performers were brilliant. Yelland, Tiffany Black and Emma Seckel provided the majority of the vocals, supported by Tommy Rowe and Savage handling the instrumentals, and some of the lyrics. Savage didn’t really step into the lime light, though, until his rap solo in the middle of the final number, which was great, but maybe not in the way he intended.
Tea is good. Music is good. And a chance to actually relax during a busy last week of classes is very good. Play On was exactly the hour I was looking for.