The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) at first seems to do exactly what is says on the tin – all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays (plus a few sonnets) crammed into 1 hour and 45 minutes with enough room left for a bundle of laughs in between. However, as this highly inventive play continues, it becomes so much more than that – part comedy, part English lesson, part pantomime; and altogether somehow turning into a brilliantly hilarious ode to the Bard.
Staying true to the diversity of Shakespeare’s work, each play is portrayed in a different (and bizarre!) format. The range of genres, from the computer animated Comedies, to the Histories told in the form of a rugby match, keeps the audience on its toes, and also showcases the massive creativity of the writers and versatility of the cast. The retelling of the tragedy Othello in a rap was definitely a highlight – especially as it was topped off with cheesy disco dancing from the cast who seemed completely oblivious to their extreme uncoolness. This naïve and highly enthusiastic quality in the three actors; James McNicholas, Owen Roberts and Lucy Wooliscroft, made the whole thing endearing, charming and quintessentially British.
Some of the jokes were perhaps a little obvious, but a few well chosen moments of genuine pathos and some serious monologues thrown into the mix kept the comedy fresh and gave the audience a few moments to take in the brilliance of some of Shakespeare’s words and get breath back ready for the fresh wave of laughter. Silly and genius in equal measure, this experience in the wonderfully relaxed New Red Lion pub theatre definitely won’t fail to bring the laughs and might even teach you something in the meantime.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) is playing at the New Red Lion Theatre until 8th May. Tickets and information can be found here.