The wit of Will

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (State Theatre Company of South Australia)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

September 21 – October 6

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“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” has snowballed in popularity since its first outing at the 1987 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, due to the improvisation, regional adaptation and pop culture references at its core. The play is a mix of stand-up, scripted comedy and theatre. It’s not traditional theatre by any means. Indeed, there is no fourth-wall, but, rather, a high-level of audience participation.

The result is bawdy humour and hysterical laughter as the show thunders through all 37 canonical plays. “Romeo and Juliet” is presented in a traditional (abridged) production format, but then all bets are off and a series of parodies ensures, including cooking show, rap battle, puppet porn and the most hectic of Hamlets. There is a lot of slapstick and silliness, but amongst it, some genuine moments of traditional theatre, which feature poignant delivery of key soliloquies, such Hamlet’s ‘what piece of work is a man.’

While a basic understanding of the Bard’s works will definitely aid appreciation of the show’s wit, there is enough frivolity and clever characterisation to amuse all. The cast of three, Damian Callinan, Nic English and Tim Overton, all give energetic, charismatic performances. Callinan’s stand-up comedy background is certainly an asset and his nimble, quick-witted interaction with the audience is a highlight.

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” is a crowd-pleasing show; it is superbly silly and appealing in its absurdness. The carnival-esque set and gaudy costumes are abundant with aesthetic richness, even if the set is completely irrelevant to the production. Its lunacy is, however, lengthy and the show could be edited for effect, especially the slow-to-get-started stand-up comedy opening and the repetitive, extended audience participatory psychological breakdown of Ophelia’s character. After all, brevity is the soul of wit.

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