Sunday, August 02, 2009

Reduced and abridged

How much fun can a dead English bard be? When the Reduced Shakespeare Company comes to town with their show, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)"...

With that opening title, eyes tend to glaze over as certain memories play back akin to those of post-war trauma victims. That's how it is with most of us and Dead Bard. For some reason, he's compulsory reading on Liberal Arts English undergrad courses, and O horror, horror, horror! The pain! The pain... [wait, no. that was from "Lost in Space"]. We read words, words, words, and still couldn't for the life of us make out the matter from the art.

So why subject ourselves to The Works? Because whether you know Shakespeare or not, you'll split your sides laughing. Good to the Company's promise, we get all of Shakespeare's plays (sort of) AND all his sonnets (er... sort of) in under two hours. Just with all the unnecessary bits cut out.

The comedy isn't merely from the interpretation of the texts, but also from playing with genre, throwing in the occasional local reference, and messing about with fourth-wall stage conventions. That means the audience in the front row seats are often part of the hilarity, though at some point the whole audience gets to play a part in a scene as well.

In the end, it's not a big deal if you didn't like Billy Spears to begin with. If you like theatre, and if you can take two hours of gut-bustin' laughter, there's good enough reason to go catch The Works.

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