Theatre Review: The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)

See all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed in one two-hour sitting in THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED).

IT IS quite some feat to squeeze all 37 of Shakespeare’s notably hefty plays into one break-neck theatre performance - or so you would think.

For the first time since 2003 The Complete Works of Shakespeare returns to the London stage in a brand new version.

Among the super speedy re-stagings are Othello The Rap, Titus Andronicus imagined as Gordon Ramsey’s The F Word, all the history plays performed as a rugby match and Macbeth acted for once with broad Scots rather than luvvy-Shakespearean accents.

The plays are performed by a trio of actors - James McNicholas, Owen Roberts and Lucy Woolliscroft - whose pastiche Shakespearean style is the best bit of the show.

The boys are mildly, constantly infuriated by Lucy who is charming in her annoying ways - although her repeated high-pitch scream joke was lost on my suffering ear-drums.

But there is something of the forced fun of a children’s TV show about this ensemble, with the stops and starts, audience participation, and constant diversions from the actual acting to skit with the audience. I expected an adrenaline-fuelled ride through the best of the Bard but momentum was strangely sluggish and the show could have been further abridged to make more of the Shakespeare and less of the hi-jinks.

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But perhaps that’s just missing the joke. The acting is well done and the show is worth seeing for the hilarious Othello The Rap alone.

* Showing at the New Red Lion in City Road, EC1, until Saturday, May 7.