The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at The State Theatre Company of South Australia

Damian Callinan in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
Damian Callinan in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a rip-snorting comedy of histrionic extravagance.

It’s William Shakespeare meets the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which makes sense since this show began its life at the 1987 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Shakespeare can be intimidating for arts practitioners and audience members alike, but not this Shakespeare. The fourth wall doesn’t exist and the audience doesn’t need a working knowledge of the writer’s canon or his lofty language to be pulled along in the joy evident in each and every performance. Laughter is guaranteed and uproarious. Pop references abound and the improvisations, Shakespearean puns (and codpieces) are ridiculously funny in this State Theatre Company of South Australia production.

Adam Cook’s direction is at its best since he was the Artistic Director at STCSA and shone with Chekhov’s Three Sisters. In this production he allows the actors open slather to access the maximum benefits of the script.

Of the cast, Damian Callinan is the clear standout in an outstanding triumvirate. Callinan has a sublime ability for comedy and his background as a stand-up comedian is no small reason for the elevated success of this particular production.

Nic English performs to all the standards of a professionally trained actor from the Adelaide College of the Arts. Tim Overton delivers a tender and moving monologue from Hamlet – ‘What a piece of work is a man’. It’s a touching anomaly to the show’s indulgent hilarity and Overton captures the moment with an advanced sense of human humility verging on love. The audience responded in kind on the night.

Ben Flett’s lighting design is a working model of understatement in the first half which quite interestingly becomes lively in the second. Alisa Paterson’s costumes are exciting, colourful and match the needs of the script with an intelligent precision.

Current STCSA Artistic Director Geordie Brookman continues to impress with his confident and, it turns out, increasingly popular vision.

Rarely is an opening night audience so readily malleable by the totality of a show. The STCSA’s 2013 production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is uproariously funny and generates a palpable feeling of good will in its audience. The only possible downside is this show will only play for 3 performances and it really is too good to miss.

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