Preview | The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

IT'S ABRIDGED: Claire Thomas, Beth Aubrey and Jo Cooper, in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Picture: Maddie Richards
IT'S ABRIDGED: Claire Thomas, Beth Aubrey and Jo Cooper, in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Picture: Maddie Richards

WILLIAM Shakespeare wrote 37 plays of various types, some popular, others less well-known. So when three American actors who had played in many of his works decided to put together a show featuring all of them, they faced a difficult task. Or did they?

The popularity of their play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), since it was first staged in 1987, has made it clear that audience members of all types of theatre events have found it engaging and fun, as well as introducing them to Shakespeare works they are not familiar with.

The writers - Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield – were among the founders of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, which performed amusing short scenes from Shakespeare at carnivals. The writing trio gave the actors in The Complete Works their first names, and noted, when premiering the play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, that they played dozens of very different characters in the work’s 97minute (plus interval) running time. Following the festival, the production ran for nine years in a London theatre. And the play has kept track with social changes, with a revised version in 2011 including amusing references to technology.

Newcastle actor, director and writer John Wood read the play two years ago and so enjoyed it that he asked Newcastle Theatre Company if they could stage the work with him as director. NTC’s board members shared his enthusiasm, so The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is being staged for a three-week season at the company’s theatre in DeVitre Street, Lambton, from August 25.

John Wood has made a significant change to the play’s casting, with three women playing the actors, while keeping the surnames of the actor-writers. But, as he and the cast members -

Beth Aubrey (Daniel), Jo Cooper (Jess), and Claire Thomas (Adam) – point out, the actors play the roles of female characters as well as males, in keeping with the nature of the theatre world in Shakespeare’s time. And they move around the audience at various times, getting both males and females involved in sequences.

The play has an engaging mix of theatre styles, with the performing trio singing, dancing, handling puppets, and delivering stand-up comedy, as well as acting. And, in one brisk scene, they perform scenes from each of Shakespeare’s history plays in the style of a football game, throwing a crown to each other instead of a ball. The actors also get to wear a bright range of costumes. Their amusing routines include delivering scenes from the tragedy Othello as a rap, given that the title character is a black man, and delivering scenes from all 17 of the Bard’s comedies in one rapid story to show the similarities of their characters and events.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) has a charity preview on Friday, August 24, then plays Saturday, Wednesday and Friday at 8pm, until September 8, plus 2pm matinees on Sunday, August 25, and Saturday, September 1. Tickets, $33, seniors, students, $27, can be bought by ringing 4952 4958.     

EVIL BURLESQUE 

PORCELAIN Productions, a Blue Mountains-based group which trains burlesque performers in NSW, the ACT and Victoria, invariably sells out its touring shows. The latest one, I Want to Be Evil, can be seen at the Royal Exchange, in Bolton Street, Newcastle, on Saturday, August 25, at 8pm. A dark burlesque cabaret, the show looks at how people, often unknowingly, become villains. It’s billed as suitable only for people 18 and over, with elements of nudity. The performers include four from Newcastle and the Upper Hunter - Berlin Von Black, Vivienne Rose, Ebony Strange, and Stage Kitty: Reignbow Dawn – plus Artemis Seven, Cherri Figjam, Porcelain, Jessyka, The Porcelain Dolls, and MC: Gemme Fatale. Tickets - $44.95 for front seats, and $34.95 for other seats, can be bought through trybooking.com.

LEAGUE FIX

RUGBY League: The Musical, a footy fix with singer and satirist Denis Carnahan, will be staged at Lizotte’s on August 31. Patrons will have a choice of show and meal for $67 from 6pm, with show only tickets $25. The performance will start at 8.30pm. The show celebrates rugby league's larger than life characters, melodrama and villains through a dynamic live interactive musical video cabaret burlesque with a blend of original songs, classic rock/pop parodies and impersonations. Carnahan came to prominence through his viral State of Origin song That's in Queensland. He's written other songs for ABC Grandstand, Fire-Up! On FBi, TripleM's Grill Team, Fox Sports, The Matty Johns Show, and The Footy Show. Bookings: 4956 2066.