THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE (Abridged)
Hamilton Gardens, Chinoiserie Garden, Hamilton
20/02/2019 - 22/02/2019
Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2019
37 plays. 97 minutes. 3 actors. Let’s do this.
(Also known as The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged))
Watch as Benny Marama, Manonpagna Chin and Jonathan Hawthorn take you on a crazy pre-eminent rollercoaster ride through the 16th Century. We know the groans that come along with the mere mention of Shakespeare’s name, but we promise you that you’re going to spend your time laughing at his plays like you never thought you would before.
A cooking show, a rap, banter – The Complete Works is going to have you saying “I don’t know what I just watched, but I loved it!”
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987 and later played at the Criterion Theatre in London, where it ran for nine years. It has since become one of the world’s most popular shows notable for holding the world record for the shortest-ever performance of Hamlet, clocking in at 43 seconds, as well as the fastest performance of Hamlet backwards, at 42 seconds.
Wednesday 20 – Friday 22 Feb 2019
$25 General Admission
*Booking fees apply
Plenty in the show to please
Review by D.A. Taylor 23rd Feb 2019
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) is what it says on the tin: all of the Bard’s works, but packed into a little under two hours. The premise is fun enough, with much of the comedy deriving from the ways in which 37 plays can be condensed or unravelled, or how Shakespearean comedies tend to follow a well-worn pattern (shipwreck, swapped identities, marriage).
There’s plenty of room to poke at Shakespeare’s better-known sequences as well as nodding at the lesser-performed works in order to satisfy the ‘complete’ aspect of the title. It’s a frenetic play that lends itself well to physical comedy and Shakespearean pop-culture fanservice to provide a fun, friendly show that clearly pleases its audience.
As a work more closely aligned to a comedy show than a comedic play, Complete relies on charismatic performers and audience engagement, and the three-person cast delivers. Toni Garson, who also directs the show, appears as the learned ‘pre-eminent Shakespearean scholar’, slipping into exasperation at her clueless aides; Jonathan Hawthorn makes for the enthusiastic, post-drama school youth; and Manonpagna Chin as the novice whose cluelessness acts as a buy-in to the conceit of exposition.
While it’s the farce of truncation and the juxtaposition of apparent abilities and experience that undergirds the comedy of the script itself, it’s the ability of the cast to engage the audience with (script-encouraged) improvisation which, to me, proves the most entertaining. For this reason, Act One feels a little more forced, and, frankly, in need of its own abridgement. Perhaps it’s because of its age (it was first performed in 1987), and Americanisms, that the core text feels a little worn thin; a little dated. I don’t care much for the rap of Othello (somewhat self-aware, the text here skirts a little close to, well, misguided), and the American football metaphor used to explain Shakespeare’s history plays doesn’t quite hit the mark, but not for lack of enthusiasm by the cast.
Yet Act One dances along at such a pace that jokes don’t tend to overstay their welcome and it’s not long before the next crashing stunt or absurdist sequence comes along. Act Two is where the night really shines, advancing a simple enough premise and romping along with plenty of light riffing and ribbing, sincere moments and genuinely funny audience participation – so by the end of the night I am thoroughly tickled.
There’s plenty in the show to please, whether you’re a fan of Shakespeare and especially if you’re looking for a fun, energetic night of theatre.
[This also appears in Ross’s Reviews.]
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