Chicago-based Q Brothers are no strangers to bringing hip-hop Shakespeare to London - their retelling of The Comedy of Errors, as The Bomb-itty of Errors visited the Ambassador's in 2003 following a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe. The duo's second outing to the capital, backed by Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Funk It Up About Nothin' appears part of a bigger plan: JQ and GQ hope to translate every one of Shakespeare's works to their trademark rap form.
Kicking off the evening the resistance from the mixed audience in the stalls was palpable, particularly from the young adults I was sitting in front of, but the mixture of incredibly clever rap lyrics and mature comedy soon won them over. The Bard's bawdiness is often lost on modern audiences, but this cast revel in it and those with me in the stalls soon did too.
There is little subtlety to the plot and verse (iambic pentameter has gone the way of the period costume in this adaptation) but the Shakespearian soliloquy still abounds and the strong and clever rhymes over Adrienne Sanchez's beats more than make up for it.
Jillian Burfete plays Hero with a chokingly sweet innocence, which certainly gives her plenty to contrast when she chooses to reap her revenge. JQ's Benedick enjoys his running battles with Ericka Ratcliff's MC Lady B (Beatrice), whose sheer stage presence steals the show. Mention should also be given to the other half of the Q Brothers, GQ whose comic performance as Leonato shines out from an able cast and slick production.