‘Q Gents’ at UTC is Shakespeare on hip hop...and a whole lot of fun
If Shakespeare were alive and writing today, he’d be a rapper. Both Q Brothers, JQ and GQ, are convinced that the Bard, lyric poet but savvy man of his times, would use his gifts for melodic verse in a form that suits with the 21st century. However, as Will has been gone for 400-plus years, the Brothers have stepped in to help him out.
Their latest work, “Q Gents,” is the Patten Performances event this week and you do not want to have to say you weren’t there for the 75-minute-long show. In the “reimagining” of “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” the two male leads are now high school football stars at Verona College Prep “who learn a thing or two about love, learning and loyalty.”
The Brothers (and they really are) came to Shakespeare through different paths. JQ says, “I was always a math guy in school and I liked the puzzle of figuring [the plays’ verse] out.” GQ, on the other hand, says that his reading disability caused him to pretty much loathe Shakespeare in school.
But when he began training at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he was asked to pick a couplet and fully explore it, both physically and vocally. “I began to hear it as music,” he says. Then he was required to create a team project, and, since he was already rapping at various places in New York, the decision was made to adapt “The Comedy of Errors”—which quickly became “The Bomb-itty of Errors” and was performed all over the world.
The Q Brothers as a duo emerged with “Othello: The Remix,” which won Best Lyrics and Best New Musical awards at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “Q Gents” is still evolving, and both Brothers say they take what emerges in each performance and use it—including audience reactions and talk-backs. “We do get people who say, ‘Now I finally understand Shakespeare,” says GQ, “but we also get people who say, ‘Now I finally get hip hop.’”
JQ adds that when the pair performed “Othello: The Remix” at the New Globe in London, “An 80-year-old usher came up to us and said it was one of the best shows she’d seen on the stage and that Sam [Wanamaker, visionary founder of the New Globe] would be proud.”
“Q Gents” will eventually travel to London as well, likely playing the New Globe’s brand-new indoors, 99-seat Sam Wanamaker Jacobean Theatre.
Asked why they picked “Two Gentlemen” for their current project, since, after all, the two main male characters, Valentine and Proteus, could charitably be described as dorky, they responded that it evokes their high school years. “When have we ever been this stupid?” says JQ. “High school.” Also, says GQ, they wanted a project that was as stripped down as they could make it. “I put on a hat, and that’s a costume change,” he says. “It frees up the words to really come to life.”
And the ’80s—the 1980s, that is—was an inspiration as well. “That was a great decade for cheesy high school movies: ‘Sixteen Candles,’ ‘The Breakfast Club,’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’” he adds. “The show’s music is very ’80s-inspired hip hop.”
But really, the Brothers emphasize, “You don’t have to like either Shakespeare or hip hop to enjoy the show. You just have to be into having a good time.”
“Q Gents,” part of the ongoing Patten Performances series. 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 22, UTC Fine Arts Center, Vine & Palmetto Sts.
Tickets and more information: (423) 4269 or utc.edu/fine-arts-center/pattenperformances/q-brothers.php