Review: Shakespeare's Women

Carrickfergus-born Clare McMahon wrote and performs in Shakespeare's Women

Shakespeare’s Women

Commedia of Errors Theatre Company

Lyric Theatre and touring

TWO young women in heaven. White shifts and white canvas shoes. They sit among eight white boxes and begin to talk. It transpires they both died in tragic circumstances and it soon becomes clear they are Shakespeare’s characters Juliet and Ophelia, Jules and Fee when we meet them in their heavenly place.

The teenagers discuss their relationships; Romeo in one case and Hamlet in the other. They play out the balcony scene and Fee asks Jules was she really out there for a sneaky fag.

This is the beauty of this intriguing play written in eight intensive weeks by Carrickfergus-born Clare McMahon; the characters move smoothly from sparky schoolgirl talk to traditional Shakespearean text. Minimal props take us through other heroines; a gold necklace and a dagger and we have a speech from Anthony and Cleopatra followed by one girl chiding the other for falling in love with a married man.

Their irreverent chat continues as they examine the lives of Portia, Lady Macbeth and others.

Throughout their time in heaven there’s a sense of waiting but we don’t know what for until, towards the end, the girls decide Ophelia should have the last word and tell Hamlet what she really thinks of him. When she does she feels empowered, the door in heaven opens and she’s able to walk through on to another level. But it leaves her friend sitting on her own waiting for her release.

All the parts are played by Siobhan Kelly and Clare McMahon, actresses who first met 16 years ago at Belfast’s Rainbow Factor School of Performing Arts, and is skilfully directed by Benjamin Gould.

At the Lyric, Belfast until Saturday February 11, then touring to Market Place, Armagh, February 17, Cushendall Golf Club, 22nd and the Playhouse, Derry, 23rd plus a number of schools. For more infomation email

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