Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer & Jess Winfield
Directed by Ylaria Rogers
A Canberra REP production
Canberra REP Theatre, Acton to 2 December
Reviewed by Len Power 17 November 2023
If you are looking for a Christmas show where you can relax, leave your brain at the door and just have fun, “The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)” might be just the show for you. I think we’re safe in assuming that no-one would be expecting a serious show with THAT title!
Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer & Jess Winfield, it started out as a short send up of “Hamlet” at a fair in California 1983. Bit by bit, the show was added to until it morphed into “The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged)” and appeared with great success at the Edinburgh Festival in 1987. The rest is history with the show receiving an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest running Shakespeare show on the West End in London after a run of 3,744 performances, ending in 2005.
Canberra REP’s production goes for the most silliness you can cram into two hours from start to finish with three actors, Callum Doherty, Alex McPherson and Ryan Street, giving high energy performances from start to finish. They must be exhausted by the end of the show.
There is quite a bit of imagination in the staging and the director, Ylaria Rogers, and the cast have milked every moment for maximum effect. This isn’t a thinking man’s comedy – the script and the playing are as broad and obvious as possible. Kayla Ciceran’s set design of half-finished stage sets and messy heaps of props gives this crazy show the right atmosphere.
The play itself seems to run out of steam in the second act and concentrates on “Hamlet” with some cringe-worthy audience participation and the multiple running of this sequence, including backwards. The action at times has a sense of desperation about it as if the actors are trying too hard to be funny.
Comedy can be a personal thing and how you react to this show depends on your own taste. Many audience members on opening night were laughing their heads off while others “sat like patience on a monument” (“Twelfth Night”, Act 2 Scene 4).
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.