Last Friday night, I got to once more experience my major high school obsessions—the Beatles and William Shakespeare—smashed together in one glorious rock musical. Because last Friday night, I went to see These! Paper! Bullets!, the Yale Repertory Theatre’s “modish ripoff” of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Sitting in the balcony of Yale University Theater, I felt like I was on the set of A Hard Day’s Night as the Quartros (Ben, Claude, Pedro, and Barth) played their opening song amidst a maelstrom of screaming female voices. Then the music stopped and the dialogue began, sweeping the audience into a wonderful blend of iambic pentameter and Liverpudlian slang. My body shivered in blissful delight as the players delivered the original Shakespearean dialogue with a Liverpudlian lilt, adorning their sentences with words like “gear” and “grotty.”
Hearing the mixing and matching of meters and slang, old and new, reminded me why I succumbed to the siren’s call of Shakespeare and the Beatles as a teen. It was because of their speech patterns. The Beatles and Shakespeare were the first to teach me, a Northeastern Ohio girl, that language could dance. Both Liverpudlian and Elizabethan speech cadences have a light, sing-songy musicality to them. It’s hard to speak in light, sing-songy ways with a Northeastern Ohio accent. Our “r’s” are hard and our “a’s,” nasal. When we speak, we mostly chew our words then spit them out. But thanks to Will and the Fab Four, I got exposed to two new patterns of speaking, very different from what I grew up using. Two different patterns of speaking that helped to expand my imagination as a writer.
If you’re in the New Haven area, I urge you to go see These! Paper! Bullets!. The show is charming, madcap, and so much fun. I dare you to count all of the cheeky Beatle song / Shakespearean references and puns…the show overflows with them!
For a less fan-girly review of the show, I’d like to direct you to an excellent one done by Eva Geertz for the New Haven Review: http://www.newhavenreview.com/index.php/2014/03/a-review-of-these-paper-bullets-by-a-very-reluctant-theater-goer/
And, if you’d like to get a sense of the show’s overall aesthetic, here is a video celebrating the show’s world premiere, courtesy of the Yale Repertory Theatre YouTube channel: