The Complete Works of Shakespeare: Abridged

Photo credit: The Reduced Shakespeare Company
Photo credit: The Reduced Shakespeare Company

By Tang Rei-En

“The Reduced Shakespeare Company is proud to prevent The Complete Works of Shakespeare – Abridged!”

It was surprising to see the theatre at the DBS Arts Centre so empty. While I hadn’t expected a full house on a Sunday night, the theatre was barely even half-filled – my friends and I were moved up five rows up to Category 1 ticket seats (much to our delight). Yet, despite the dismal audience size, the actors didn’t seem to show any disappointment. From the very start, the cast of three (Jeff Marlow, Tiger Reel and Dan Saski) were full of enthusiasm in acting out their fast-paced comedy.

Putting on exaggerated personalities, the three players showed that they weren’t afraid of making fun of or caricaturing anyone – not Shakespeare, not random audience members, and especially not themselves. No one was spared from their ruthlessly sharp wit.

The first act had them speeding through 36 out of Shakespeare’s 37 plays.  All his comedies were squashed into a five-minute mash-up, after the bold claims that none of them were actually funny and they all had the same plot. Histories were retold American football style, Titus and Andronicus re-created as an incredibly macabre cooking show, and Othello re-interpreted as a rap collaboration.

The second act was dedicated solely to Hamlet – brilliantly re-imagined, and performed in the most entertainingly self-depreciating fashion ever. Here, as throughout the rest of the performance, the actors switched between multiple roles seamlessly. While pace dipped slightly during a scene that required audience participation (in which audience members were prompted to act out Ophelia’s psyche), this act ran even more smoothly than the first, as the players attacked their roles with great relish.  The two encores that they always follow up with ended the performance on a high.

Never missing a beat, the performers’ energy was infectious; they had the audience in stitches from the very first minute. While the jokes were mostly recycled from their previous run in 2009, their delivery was spot-on. For such a well-put-together performance, it really was a shame that so few were there to see it.

Shakespeare fan or not, this production is sure to tickle your funny bone and make you see the Bard’s plays in a totally different light. A night of fun guaranteed indeed!

The Complete Works of Shakespeare: Abridged ran from 1 – 12 October 2013. 


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