2011

Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

The State Theatre Company – Dunstan Playhouse. 25 Mar to 16 Apr.

Is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) a play? Or a well written, well executed piece of standup comedy? I suspect you will have to discover this for yourself. But discover it you must, for this production is jaw aching, belly busting, laugh out loud hilarious.

It is true that this show might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the low brow humor is often very low brow, and a basic understanding of Shakespeare will definitely help to unravel some of the more complex humor in the script. But even if you have never seen a Shakespeare play before, there is enough slap stick, self humiliation and wonderful characterisation to keep you laughing anyway.

The set is horrible. It looks bad, and functions even worse, more than half of it never even used. But the performances transcend it, and eventually you can forget it’s there. It becomes merely something the players have to walk around or climb over to cross the stage, but is completely irrelevant to the production.

Costumes were great fun. They would have gotten Willy wet (that’s an excited Shakespeare reference if you haven’t see the production yet) had he lived through the 70’s. Damian Callinan sported a Peacock called ‘Brendan’ in the most awkward of locations on the front of his bloomers, who often got included in the show. Nathan O’Keefe was also in love with his range of hats and wigs in particular, using them to great effect in his characterisations. Mark Saturno had an unfortunate incident with his Hamlet hair piece in the second act as it came off with the hood of his robe – Saturno, un-thrown by this, took the opportunity to mock his own lack of hair and rearrange the wig back-to-front before correcting it.

What really shone through here were the players. Their individual comic ability, their ensemble timing, the quick wit and well rehearsed (apparent) improvisation. Audience participation is sure to complicate the production, but doesn’t – and running in and out of the auditorium (a familiar distraction in conventional theatre) is engaging and exciting.

Director Adam Cook is no doubt still trying to wipe the smile off his face from the fun had in rehearsal. Damian Callinan, a veteran of this production, MC’s the show with comic standup genius. Nathan O’Keefe shows us how far he can really stretch his physicality and acting ability, occasionally reminiscent of Frank Woodly, and Mark Saturno really balances the two wild guys and demonstrates his voice over talents on more than one occasion.

I could rabbit on for hours speaking of light-sabers, Schwarzenegger impersonations, vomiting, rappers, cooking shows, electric walkers, penis jokes and women with beards. But you might as well just go and see it yourself –my review would never be as funny!

Paul Rodda

 

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