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Shakespeare’s Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon review at Rialto Theatre, Brighton

Shakespeare’s Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon at the Rialto Theatre, Brighton. Shakespeare’s Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon at the Rialto Theatre, Brighton.
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Boasting possibly one of the best titles ever, Shakespeare’s Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon – which debuted at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – is fun stuff, but it struggles to fulfil its delirious promise.

When Oberon kidnaps Shakespeare, director of SHIELD (Shakespearean International Evil Lessening Division), some of his most iconic characters must come together to rescue the bard and his Quill of Infinity.

Young ensemble Drake’s Drummers Theatre Company’s sequel to an earlier Marvel Cinematic Universe-riffing comedy – Avengers Assembleth – delights in its fanboy details and puns. If you know your Ultron from your Oberon, there are throwaway lines to spare.

But the plot’s Jasper Fforde-lite fiction-reality mashup is sketchy at best – a slender tentpole for a fairly flimsy canvas. And while Macbeth, Hamlet, Brutus and Ophelia’s character trait-based squabbling is sometimes funny, it lacks the Whedonesque quickness of their modern-day, big-screen cousins.

This isn’t helped by stilted pacing and some uncertain performances. The company include a few meta-theatrical gags about budgetary constraints, but these don’t paper over every crack. And some jokes about how boring theatre is get old quick.

Shakespeare’s characters as the comic book equivalents of their day is a lovely idea. And the play’s box-office name-checking is cheekily endearing. But the execution needs more work here. These Avengers shuffleth.

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Verdict
Marvel-Shakespeare mash-up that struggles to capitalise on its brilliant premise  
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