Newest Review: ... me. Abridged is hardly the word I'd use. Murdered and ripped apart are some of the phrases that come to mind, but, thankfully, th... more
Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged)
Member Name: black sheep
Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged)
Date: 20/08/01, updated on 20/08/01 (202 review reads)
Advantages: pant-wettingly funny
Disadvantages: don't sit in the front row unless you're an extravert
Laughed? I almost wet myself - as my usually straight-laced boss described the performance he was taking us to see on a company outing. Instantly I translated this as 'actually funny, not bad considering it's at the theatre' - it has long been my opinion that the theatre has none of the magic of film or television and uncomfortable seats to boot. I was wrong. It was pant-wettingly funny and beat the other media hands down in a fair fight (and the seats had enough legroom for my 5'10" stature).
My first reaction (after 'hey, I can sit down here without losing circulation' - although maybe this was just because we were in the stalls) was Gordon Bennet, they're American. What on earth are they doing Shakespeare in London for? Fortunately they settled this issue with a few succinct, uproariously funny gags about Americans doing Shakespeare, and I found myself thanking my lucky stars for the fact that their nationality had given them the opportunity to do this. It also gave a whole new dimension to their attempts to do Scottish accents for 'Macbeth'.
And so we were off into the plays, after a brief talk on the academic significance of Shakespeare from their highly qualified cast member with a BA from the University of Santa Cruz, California. Having made themselves sound like they were in no position to even pronounce the names of the plays, they managed to get in a lot of jokes and commentary exploring the deeper level of the plays, without for a moment toning down the level of humour or gaining in pretention. (I'd like to parade the example here of their use of copulating hand puppets in the play within a play in 'Hamlet'.)
The 37 plays which they run through are all abridged by different extents. 'Hamlet' is done for the entire second half of the performance, 'Romeo and Juliet' takes about ten to fifteen minutes and 'Much Ado about Nothing' barely gets a mention in t
he condensed version of all 16 of Shakespeare's comedies. I found this didn't make very much difference (I felt a momentary wave of disappointment when I realised that they weren't going to do 'Much Ado' at length, but it didn't make much difference which plays the gags were on, the gags were the thing - or the gagging if Kyle and his determination to do the vomit-version of Shakespeare got involved).
A warning at this point: if you are of a nervous disposition, do not sit in the front two rows of the stalls. You will get slightly wet when Ophelia drowns (a fantastic moment, that like in all the best movies, was too good to just do once), you run the risk of being the subject of the Shakespeare with vomit philosophy - mimed only, but still - or you could be generally focussed upon, insulted and dragged up on stage. Don't get me wrong, it's not an unpleasant experience, so long as you're an unembarassable extravert. It's nearest equivalent in other theatre is the pantomime - but this play focusses its attention on adults. I'm not saying don't bring children, they'll find the slapstick hilarious (I hate slapstick and I found the slapstick hilarious), but don't bring them if you've been giving them a sheltered upbringing and don't want to have to explain what the (fully clothed) 'courting' sock puppets are doing to each other afterwards.
There are so many brilliant gags both visual and verbal (and involving a man in a wig) that I wouldn't even know where to start on reproducing them - and besides, they're all so much more effective when done by the three brilliant stars of the show - of which for me, Kyle was by far and away the best. Instead I'll give you a dull and dry run-down of some facts:
Venue: Criterion Theatre, Picadilly Circus
Nearest Tube: Picadilly Circus
On: Wednesday to Saturday
Thursday matinees 3pm
Saturday matinees 5pm
Sunday matinees 4pm
(On Tuesdays they do the Complete Histoy of America instead)
Performers: Rick Bland, Kyle Dadd, Gary Fannin
Ticket prices: £8-£29.50
Right, that's everything you need to know, now go and book your tickets.
PS Further warning: of the fifteen people who went on the trip from my work, 14 said 'I nearly wet my pants, I laughed so hard' and 1 said 'well, it was OK, some of the jokes were quite funny'. Logic therefore says you do have a 1 in 15 chance of thinking it wasn't really worth the money.
More reviews in the field of Theatre / Musical National
- Pi**ing in a portakabin
- A worthwhile experience
- Another winner from Sir Andrew
- Box Office Terror
- Jongleurs Comedy Club
- Wish you were here?
- Something baaaaad is happening in Oz
- Dublin, Manchester, Glasgow and the rest of you I am jealous!!!!
- And Iiiiiiiiiiiii will always love youuuuuuuuuu! *sheds a tear*
- Edinburgh at its Best