The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) is described by director Adam Cook as the “piece of fluff” of this year’s STC season. While an apt description, this summary doesn’t do justice to the two hours of frivolity, absurdity and general mania that make up this production.
Opening with a brief introduction from Damian Callinan, this initially feels like a stand-up comedy gig. However, it soon takes on the atmosphere of a carnival as the stage is transformed by the appearance of Mark Saturno, an impressively adaptive caravan and some ludicrous costumes. Enter Nathan O’Keefe, bringing his trademark energy (and some hilarious accents) to every role he inhabits as he bounces around the stage like a monkey on speed, and the set up is complete.
Having seen the show a decade ago, I was intrigued as to how this particular production would be different. As it happens, there’s a lot of new material included – the majority of which can be credited to the performers, who have been workshopping the piece over the last month. Local references abound and so many of the jokes relate to current events that at times it’s difficult to determine which parts date back to the original script.
Despite the irreverent attitude towards The Bard’s work that runs through the show, there are also enough clever references to the original plays – whether through direct quotes, modern translations or groan-worthy puns – to make this educational for the uninitiated and especially rewarding for Shakespeare aficionados.
Not all of the jokes succeeded, but enough did so that laughter resounded through the auditorium. Although some individuals may find the lowbrow humour that is undeniably present in this show irksome, the opening night audience’s reaction indicates that the majority will enjoy it for the amusing and gentle mockery that it is.
Kryztoff Rating: 4K
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