The Peers : Montreal Improv

It has been a long time since I have laughed so hard. 

There are 2 major elements that I really enjoyed about The Peers: their very real depiction of theatrical catastrophe, and their ridiculous take on Shakespeare. The premise of this show is that a theatre company has severely overbooked themselves, and they now have to perform multiple Shakespeare plays in one evening. Against undeniably self-inflicted odds, they accomplish this admirably. 

Overall, this piece was very well thought-out and brilliantly executed. Each character was a caricature of an actor trope – an over-the-top rendition of the kind of lovable yet insufferable people you meet back stage of just about any standard theatre production. You had a toxic ladies man trailing broken hearts and promises, an inexperienced actress brought in by said ladies man and given parts she is unqualified for, a seasoned actor who is doing you a favour by being there, a new kid just doing his best and, of course, that one person trying to turn everything into a musical number. Together they wove together a story of complicated tangling of emotions, which ultimately need to be set aside because the show must go on. 

The most famous works of the Bard were reduced to pop culture references and slapstick comedy. It was obvious that they had a nuanced understanding of each play, because what they performed were 5-10 minute interpretations of the stories essentials, with the flowery language replaced by absurdity. It took what is often considered pretentious and high art and made it accessible to what would have been Shakespeare’s intended audience today. Not only that, but they injected more culturally relevant meaning into their performance, creating commentary on toxic masculinity and the patriarchy while still keeping the atmosphere light and fun. One of my favourite aspects of the show was that each play they performed was less technically complicated and choreographed than the one before. The slow devolution of each play within a play (within a play, in the case of Hamlet) drove home the overall concept of the show, which was the time limit they had and the preexisting tension between each cast member.

Collectively, their chemistry together was palpable and their energy was contagious. Their utter disregard for the fourth wall was hysterical, the execution of which was remarkably relatable. Along with phenomenal continuity, brilliant comedy and wonderfully creative storytelling, this is a show you would regret missing for the rest of your life. You might even say that the stakes have never been higher to see a work of Shakespeare.