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THE COMPLEAT WORKS OF WLLM SHKSPR (article first published : 2003-07-22)

The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) is 97 minutes of hilarious mayhem as three of Durban’s hottest actors - Steven Stead, Neil Coppen and Michael Gritten - play havoc with literary history at the Catalina Theatre from July 22 until August 10.

Themi Venturas produces a fabulous cast in the acclaimed Reduced Shakespeare Company’s delicious rollicking comedy – The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged). Directed by Peter Court, this outrageous, quirky, high-energy comedy romp has been playing to packed houses and critical acclaim in London and New York for years.

It gallops through the complete works of Shakespeare in a way never seen before and in a manner Shakespeare himself would not think imaginable. A mix of pratfalls, puns, willful misreadings, clunky female impersonations, clean-cut ribaldry, and broad burlesque make it impossible to resist. It combines the distinctive left-field nonsense-type humour of Monty Python, with some fun visual gags, hectic physicality and echoes of original Shakespearen text. Tights and cod-pieces never looked like this before!

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, the full works of Shakespeare have been edited into manageable morsels of comedy. Audiences will be forced to throw out every preconceived notion of Shakespeare and strap into their seat for a ride they'll not soon forget.

The three actors chosen for the Durban season all have impeccable credentials: Steven Stead (most recently seen in Run to Ground) performed the title role in Venturas’s Hamlet; Neil Coppen was Hamlet in the Actors Co-Op’s acclaimed version, and Michael was Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. All three have experience in physical theatre and comedy.

"This irreverent deconstruction of Shakepeare’s work makes a dilly of poor Willy,” says Michael Musto, New York Daily News. “A fantasia of zany energy that throws together Monty Python-ish drag and Mel Brook-ish anything-for-a-laugh gags."

The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) runs from July 22 to August 10. More information or bookings through Catalina Theatre on 031 305 6889.

Editor’s Note: This production is indelibly imprinted on my memory as I saw it in London the day Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris in the early hours of that morning. I wondered how the cast would handle presenting such a madcap show at such a time of international shock and mourning. Productions on the West End play to audiences from all over the world and, to many, this is their only chance of seeing the show, so cancellation is an option to be treated very seriously. I was impressed by the cast’s professionalism and sensitivity in going ahead with the performance. They acknowledged the tragic loss but felt that Princess Diana, who had been such a supporter of their work, would have expected them to respect the dictum that the “show must go on”. They acknowledged a few moments of silence and dedicated the performance to her memory. It couldn’t have been handled better, more efficiently or more respectfully. – Caroline Smart




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