we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable
categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable
instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical
rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response
of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous.
****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied.
* : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this
is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating
system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation
of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt,
and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious
in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content,
intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now?
Look, at least we tried.
>>>>>STRIKE DRUM, MAKE MERRY AND HAIL THE ENGLISH BARD
Shakespeare wrote always with his public in mind: noblemen,
merchants, servants, Moors, Jews, Christians, revellers, wise men and
fools saw themselves in the bard's imagined histories and myths. As sharp
social commentary wrapped up in entertainment, Shakespeare's performed
works became the Trojan horse of Elizabethan society. The bard's insight
is not lost when contemporary companies stage productions which remain
true to the (agreed upon) 'original' text. Take the word-perfect performances
by The Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC. These productions become
touchstones for our societies' peculiarities. Nonetheless, to make Shakespeare
immediately accessible or relevant, others have undertaken to infuse specific
socio-historical markers, if not utterly rework some aspects of the play.
Recent celluloid offerings such as 'Romeo + Juliet', 'Titus' and 'O' come
Taking the process of interpretation to absurd lengths, THE COMPLETE WORKS
OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) stands peerless. The backdrop comprises
tapestry loud with titles in graffiti. Elizabethan stage wear is teamed
with hose in electric hues and Converse sneakers. Among many other literary
devices, references to blockbuster movies (one involving a motel voyeur
and another a certain human arachnid) are thrown in with sidesplitting
results. Even the knowing asides characteristic of Shakespeare are blown
up into wild segments of audience participation. Most of the time, whole
lines and phrases which have become part of the collective consciousness
are deliciously preserved but delivered with bathetic urgency. Fortunately,
one famous soliloquy from 'Hamlet' was purposefully delivered with the
wonderment and gravity with which it was originally conceived, to grateful
applause. All this, and all of Shakespeare's 37 plays (minus 'Coriolanus'
deemed too obscene to stage) in 97 minutes!
the process of interpretation to absurd lengths, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) stands peerless.'
Managing this mammoth task with ridiculous ease, Rob Carlton, Berynn Schwerdt
and Tim Schwerdt showed off the 'power of three'. They acted as themselves
(present day scholar-entertainers) acting out the dizzying range of characters
that peoples the bard's whimsy. Rob possessed a maturity that lent a certain
comic irony when he played youthful roles. With a brilliant albeit incomprehensible
treatise on Shakespeare, he spoofed the intellectualisation at work in
scholarly circles. Berynn, the tallest of the three, and looking the most
ridiculous in his red tights and carefully groomed moustache, made us
laugh uncomfortably along with him as he and his 'butter stumps' lackey
whipped up a batch of human brain pie (or something like that). You can
guess which play that alluded to! His best moment belonged to his overwrought
take on Hamlet. Every psychotic spasm worked! Initially, it seemed as
though Tim was lagging behind his fellow thespians in energy. But it was
all a set up. As the playful, too eager, and usually misinformed student
of 17th Century life, Tim farted and vomited his way to become a most
offensively endearing cross-dresser.
While much of ABRIDGED rushed through most of the 36 plays (remember 'Coriolanus'?),
two of Shakespeare's most familiar works book-ended the show. 'Romeo and
Juliet' and 'Hamlet' had the privilege of respectively starting and ending
the evening. This was perhaps a nod to a feature of Shakespeare's plays
- his blatant pandering to the masses. These two plays are indelibly etched
whether whole or in part upon the hearts and minds of Shakespeare lovers.
In a way, ABRIDGED had the juicy bits of Shakespeare scrupulously retained
but always with irreverence and wit. The 'Works' are not so much distilled
as they are thrown into a blender with loads of knowing camp.