The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is incomparably funny, outstandingly witty and deliciously bad Shakespeare. Brash, crude, adlibbed and often chaotic, it reduces Shakespeare to its elements, and breathes wicked vivacity into worn out texts. Undoubtedly it is one of the best Shakespearian experiences I have ever had.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was first performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987. Receiving international acclaim and being played in many different countries throughout the world, including a nine year stint in London, the play’s basic elements always remain the same. Three actors condense all 37 plays of William Shakespeare, and some snippets of his sonnets, into a 97 minute parody. Drawing heavily on improvisation and pop-culture references, the piece is unique to the location and audience for which it is being played, ensuring its constant relevance.
The QPAC production of The Complete Works sees Frank Woodley, Damien Callinan and Keith Adams take the stage in bright tights, puffy shorts and various wigs. The actors play themselves, as actors who are trying to act out all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays. Constantly taking the mickey out of themselves and out of the Bard himself, as well as numerous other ‘characters’ such as Kevin Rudd, George Bush, or even certain audience members, it is clearly a play that was never meant to be taken seriously. (Please, do not go to this show if you are not willing to laugh at yourselves, or if you don’t like seeing the ‘classics’ completely botched up.)
The first play that the actors attempt is Ro-Emo (Callinan, an Ipod wearing, emotionally sensitive ‘rebel’) and Juliet (Woodley). This is followed up by a cooking show style Titus Andronicus and then a rapped version of Othello. The Complete Works is also very dependent on its audience participation. Many of the comic moments of the piece emerge out of the interplay with the audience, and as such every performance would be different.
The Complete Works plays to its’ performers’ strengths. Keith Adams, evidently the most the experienced and ‘serious’ actor involved in the production, was the glue of the show, guiding the unruly comedians and trying to play Hamlet as best as he could. Damien Callinan’s experience as a teacher served him well in his frequent adlibbed interludes with the audience. His quick, crude wit and ability to relate with young people won the hearts of the school groups in the audience. Meanwhile comedian Frank Woodley was happy to regularly admit “I so can’t act” but it was highly amusing to watch him try. Sometimes however, the performers were so funny that they cracked themselves up, and towards the end the performance did become a bit of a mess. But like watching a film’s blooper real, the bad moments, while a little cringe worthy, were just as enjoyable as the good.
Purposefully or not, what Woodley, Callinan and Adams created was something that really got back to its roots of Elizabethan theatre. It was a raw, seemingly under-rehearsed, highly improvised, dependent on audience response, men-in-drag mess of a piece of theatre, and yet it connected with its audience and contemporised its writing into an explosive piece of entertainment! Not one person in the audience could walk away not having enjoyed at least some element of The Complete Works.
If Shakespeare saw it, I am not sure if he would either be thrilled or horrified, or possibly both. But one thing is for sure – The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is hilarious… like an eternal Summer that shall not fade…
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
All 37 plays in 97 minutes
Director John Saunders
Assistant Director Greg Carroll.
Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Previews: Wed 18 Apr @ 1.00pm & 7.30pm; Thu 19 Apr @ 7.30pm
Opening Night: Fri 20 Apr @ 7.30pm
Dates: 18 Apr 2007 - 27 May 2007
Times: Tues to Sat @ 7.30pm; Matinees Wed 1.00pm, Sat 2.00pm, Sun 3.00pm
Tickets (incl. fees): $37.00 to $56.90
Bookings: 136 246 or qtix.com.au