WHAT: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)
WHO: Reduced Shakespeare Company
WHERE: Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham
WHEN: 19 April 2013
An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine years in London’s West End at the Criterion Theatre!
Now revised for 2013 with the same recycled jokes – just put in a different order. Join these madcap men in tights as they weave their wicked way through all of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies in one wild ride that will leave you breathless and helpless with laughter.
After the last show we saw starring the Reduced Shakespeare Company, we decided that if they were coming back to Nottingham, we’d go see them again. Voilà! This time, the subject matter wasn’t the history of sports around the world, but instead, the works of William Shakespeare.
With the same sort of energetic lunacy as The Complete World of Sports (Abridged), The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) took us all on a journey through the classic plays penned by the Bard. And it’s hilarious. Seriously, if ever this comedy troupe comes to your town, you need to go see them. They sell out venues for a reason!
To start with, after some “safety announcements” (which was a good warm-up for the laughing muscles), the first play receiving the abridged treatment was Romeo & Juliet. It was a little lengthier than expected, so they stepped it up a gear and swiftly dealt with all the comedies in one blow, because “they’re all the same anyway”, and most of the tragedies were taken care of as a game of American football (!). Coriolanus became a cooking show.
One thing we appreciated last time was how they adapted the show not just to be current (“Let’s bury [Richard III] in a car park!”) but also to the place they’re performing – in Nottingham’s case, referring to a local pub and the Robin Hood theme park yet to be built. This is how you win over an audience! Not that any of us needed winning over, to be fair.
After two of the three performers (Gary Fannin, Ben Stratton and Matt Rippy, the latter we recognised from World of Sports) buggered off because they didn’t fancy doing Hamlet, one guy was left … to engage the whole audience in a sing-along. After that, act one finished.
Act two took care of Hamlet, in increasingly reduced versions. Here’s where they got the audience to really participate. A woman looking a lot like she’d rather not be on stage at all (body language spelled “AWKWARD” in capital letters) was picked to be one part of Ophelia’s psyche (screaming). A man was picked to be another part (running around on stage) and the audience was split in a few groups to be her internal monologue. It was absolute chaos, but we had so much fun. The shy and super-awkward young lady got rapturous and well-earned applause when she let out an almighty scream to finish off the scene. Even though she clearly didn’t want to be there, the guys on stage seemed to whisper quiet encouragement throughout to make her feel more comfortable.
After the show, the performers were signing autographs in the Playhouse lobby, or generally just sticking around to say hello to the audience. The Squeeze thought I should go up and talk to them (“say you’re going to review the show! The next step is to start doing interviews!”), but I refused. How cheesy would it be to say “yeah, awesome show, guys. By the way, I’ve got this blog and I’m totally going to review this show, just like I reviewed the last one”. Or just go up and say hello. I mean, what would I say? Besides, there were already at least 20 people around them. I’m not scared to go up to them, but I’d rather be prepared, because to go up to them just for the sake of going up to them and having said hello feels stupid. Maybe next time, if I can think of something to say before that.
At any rate, the Squeeze and I were unanimous. This was a brilliant show with lots of laughter. The subject matter, while we’re not Shakespeare fans, was perhaps a bit more agreeable than sports, like we expected it would be. The only way the show could possibly have been improved was if they had the plush, walking Godzilla with flashing red eyes available as merchandise.
An evening in the company of the Reduced Shakespeare Company is most certainly an evening well spent.
5 out of 5 barfing characters