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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 3:10pm

The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 October, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 October, 1999, 12:00am

The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged) APA Drama Theatre October 5 It sounds like a student's dream show: all 37 of William Shakespeare's plays in 97 minutes. So you can forget not understanding the plot, or falling asleep during the soliloquies.

You can also forget about all those boring bits and sustained metaphors, even - if you can - Gwyneth Paltrow and Leonardo diCaprio.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company - and, yes, they do shorten that to RSC - simply doesn't have time for all that tosh.

Arky Michael, Russell Fletcher and Sean O'Shea, the three men doing Shakespeare irreverently on a strict diet of baked beans (high energy, frantic costume changes, lots of flatulence), have thrown out the turgid bits, but kept the sex and violence, all that lovely treachery, poison and swordplay.

Shakespeare wrote for the masses, and he would probably be writing for television if he were alive today. This was certainly Shakespeare for the MTV generation.

Michael, Fletcher and O'Shea gave us Titus Andronicus as a galloping gourmet, Othello in rap and all 16 comedies in one quick sequence, 'because the plots are pretty much the same'.

Coriolanus was left out. But then they spent longer worrying about omitting it than they spent on the seven history plays, which were done within a few glorious minutes as a game of Aussie rules football (Richard III is taken off the ground with a hamstring injury - hence that limp). Julius Caesar was easy - he came on and got stabbed.

Romeo and Juliet got a bit longer, partly for a brilliant balcony scene with the aid of only a rope and few flowerpots. And who better to play Juliet than the most solid, hairy member of the cast, Michael? He played all the female characters.

In all, the bard busters play more than 100 roles, most of which came before the interval.

After the interval came the world's only audience participation Hamlet. You did not want to be sitting in the front few rows for this Monty-Python-meets-Blackadder version that included the only serious part of the evening, Michael's 'What a piece of work is man . . .' speech from Hamlet, and ended backwards.

But most curiously, the night did actually teach something.

The three clearly know and love their Shakespeare - and their show was much more memorable than all those interminable lessons, and a lovely antidote to Kenneth Branagh.


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