Hysterical slice of Bard's works has them rolling in the aisles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 March, 2004, 12:00am

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts Lyric Theatre

8pm, Until March 13

Remember how hysterical it was when movie clips were played backwards? Well, you haven't experienced hysteria until you've seen Hamlet performed backwards by Ezra Bix, Berynn and Tim Schwerdt.

Sydneysiders Bix and the Schwerdt brothers are the actors behind this version of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which has been performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company in London's West End for the past seven years.

Thirty-seven plays in 97 minutes with a lot of mucking around seems an impossible task, but thanks to a superbly and tightly written script by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, it works. It's hard to say what is so spot on with the play, it's just terribly funny - even the fart, burp and vomit jokes.

Much of the credit goes to Bix and the Schwerdt brothers who have such wonderful chemistry and timing that they convincingly slip into the tens of roles they play with exhilaration.

The three excellent actors should be given credit for injecting local humour and references, such as Lan Kwai Fong, the Crazy Horse bar in Wan Chai, and even kum lau gum (bird flu), to help the audience relate to the play.

Othello is performed as a radical rap, complete with a closing verse from Eminem's Cleaning Out My Closet, while Titus Andronicus is presented as a gory television culinary show. By intermission, the trio has almost exhausted the Bard's repertoire, leaving the best for last - Hamlet.

It is a good half-hour of endless laughter, starting with a workshop that has the audience screaming lines like, 'Get thee to a nunnery!' (as Hamlet says to Ophelia) and, 'Oi Hamlet! My biological clock's ticking and I want to have a baby now!' After that, it's Hamlet in abridged 'full version', Hamlet in a three-minute version, and Hamlet performed backwards, which has the audience rolling in the aisles.

The great thing about this play is that you don't have to know Shakespeare to enjoy it. There isn't a minute of boredom.