I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we arrived to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at The Old Rep, Birmingham. I was expecting funny and manic, but I wasn’t quite sure how it would pan out. It was very silly, but lots of fun and I learnt a bit about some plays I hadn’t seen or read.
Basically there are 3 actors on stage and they perform all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays within the space of 97 minutes. That’s quite a feat. It’s a full on 97 minutes for all 3 actors and they are barely off stage at all during the performance (except when they are coming into the audience to throw up over you – don’t worry there’s no actual vomit involved). It’s fast paced, but they get off to a slow start with Romeo and Juliet and realise that they need to speed up if they are to get them all done in time. The more famous plays get more stage time as things progress. We particularly liked the history plays sequence with its rugby themed treatment – I’d have never have thought of that take on Henry V and the rest, but it summed them up and made for a lot of fun.
“In The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), the range of emotions that I go through in around one and a half hours,” said actor Matthew Duckett, having a welcome coffee during a break in rehearsals, “is like living in fast forward mode- exhausting! For example:- one minute I swoon at Juliet’s feet, the next I jump around the stage and rap the story of Othello , then offer advice to Macbeth in a ‘perrrrrrrrrfect’ Scottish accent, fence Hamlet, and then, of course face the mountainous task at the end.”
This promising young actor, who studied at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, continued, “I feel so fortunate that I have been given this opportunity so early in my career. I am determined to give it my all. During my background research for this project I realised that Shakespeare never intended his works to be only highbrow entertainment but accessible to all, which is something I think we achieve here.”
When asked who should see this play he replied, “Anyone between the ages of 12 and 112. There is something here for everyone. Even if you do not like Shakespeare, it’s still fun and enjoyable to watch”
I’d agree with this as I took my 11-year-old to see it and he loved it. I was a bit concerned at how much he giggled at various points (they must have covered more in those school puberty lessons that I thought) and he was laughing out loud in several places. He loved the manic nature of the play and he’s enjoyed reading abridged and manga versions of many of the plays so he’s familiar with some of the stories. We’d loved it and would happily go to see it again.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is produced by the National Production Company and directed by the award winning John-Robert Partridge. It runs from Tuesday 24 July to Saturday 28 July 2018 at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham. Tickets available from www.oldreptheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 0121 359 9444.