Shakespeare is an intimidating body of literary works to first approach. Academics literally dedicate their entire lives to studying Shakespeare’s life and works. There exists 37 plays, over 150 sonnets, and even some lesser known pieces only likely to be read by a few confused people.
Alas, where to dippeth thy fledgling toe, you may ask? Well, how about just tackling the entire works of Shakespeare in one sitting, all neatly condensed into a single show—but only the good bits, as sort of a William Shakespeare sampler box? Yes? Then The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) might be just the ticket.
Written by the co-founders of the Reduced Shakespeare Company over 25 years ago, the show was first performed in 1987 at the Edinburgh Festival Fridge, and has since gone on to become one of the world’s most popular shows, playing in dozens of countries around the world, and performed in several languages.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), owes its longevity to clever regional adaptation and extensive use of improvisation. Not only is the show localised, but each performance can be vastly different. The play is a mix of stand-up, carefully scripted comedy routine, and theatre. There is no fourth-wall in this play. The actors play themselves, and even the stage crew get involved. There’s a high-level of audience participation—similar to what one might see in stand-up, with the audience also at times playing an active role in the play. This is an amazingly fun play that has the audience in stitches consistently throughout. No pre-drinks required, but it couldn’t hurt.
This is a South Australian Theatre Company production, brought to Brisbane by QPAC in association with the Brisbane Festival. The play has already completed a season in South Australia, so the cast are well practiced, and gave outstanding performances. For the most part, it’s just three cast members; Damian Callinan, Nic English, and Tim Overton. Callinan is brilliant, his stand-up comedy background shines through. Damian’s effortless quick-witted interaction with the audience coming in and out of intermission was a major highlight of the play. Damian’s peacock codpiece plays an additional character, adding some naughty humour. Both Nic and Tim give great performances, and are both big up-and-coming talents that we might be lucky to see a lot more of. Tim delivers a moving rendition of Hamlet’s ‘What a piece of work is a man’ speech, providing a break away from the slapstick to serious theatre, and proving that amongst all the silliness, (and just incase you’re in doubt), they can act.
The production values are good. The set was interesting and functional, designed to look something like a pageant wagon, which must be handy for a show that is actually traveling. In addition, there’s a host of props, used and abused throughout the show; an inflatable croc is abused to the point that an Irwin needs to rescue it. Lighting and sound are both done very well, and as before mentioned, the stage team (Ben Flett on lighting, and Stuart Day on music) addressed as part of the play. Alisa Paterson has done a truly amazing and noteworthy job with costumes.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) will be showing at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, from the 21st of September through to the 9th of October. It’s lots of laughs, and well worth seeing.