Willy's Bitches, Assembly Checkpoint, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Philip Howard (Director) Shannon Thurston (Writer), Tamara Saringer (Musical Director)
Jenny Hayley Douglas (Julia), Brigid Shine (Ophelia), Melanie Morton (Hermia), Shannon Thurston (Helena), Rachel Graham (Lady Macbeth), hannah Kerbes (Beatrice), Samantha Taylor Burns (Kate), Lauren Mayer (Lavina), Ash Henning (Queen Margaret)
Running time

Shakespeare has been famed for many of his universally complex male characters such as Richard III, Hamlet and Macbeth - but behind every man is a stronger woman (some believe)!

Well, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland student, Shannon Therston, believes so and has written a new musical, Willy's Bitches, dedicated to the Bard's 9 bad ass female characters including well known Lady Macbeth, and Ophelia. It is not often that female actors receive the opportunity to play such complex, powerful and intelligent characters as they are all too often succumbed to playing the girl next door or the typical background wife / girlfriend character. Instead Therston has written a rich script that interweaves Shakespeare's classical text to current modern day language to showcase what the RCS's MA Musical Theatre students have to offer this Fringe.

Quite a lot actually, although the performance feels more like a work-in-progress rather than a finalised product. It does have room to grow, however, as the script and the music are extremely interesting in their ability to link the characters of yesteryears and show them in a modern light.

This, of course, has to be credited to the 9 strong cast who are extremely musically gifted performers who have beautiful and near angelic voices. This really comes alive when they sing as an ensemble showcasing effortless harmonies with undertones of the classically dark medieval genre shining through thanks to elegant musical direction from Tamara Saringer.

Some of the acting is slightly hazy, however, leaving a sense that the cast never fully get to grips with their characters - perhaps due to the fact that the performance ends abruptly. It is advertised as a 55 minute show but ends up nearer 40 minutes never really giving the 9 leading ladies a chance to explore their characters. This leaves the overall performance a little disjointed, more like a series of monologues, solos, and duets without a connecting through-line or narrative. Perhaps if the cast was cut to half its size there may be more room for a story to develop and to connect and explore each character more deeply.

Director Philip Howard chooses a cabaret-esk staging which gives an intimate feel but seems rather out of place with the style of the performance.

These are only slight flaws in what otherwise is a musical that could have the potential to be the next big thing. The cast has a very bright future ahead of them – watch out musical theatre world as the bad 'bitches' are in town!

Runs til 30 August, 3.10pm