Whether you love or hate the plays of William Shakespeare, or have never been exposed to them, you'll get something from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)[revised].
Created by The Reduced Shakespeare Company - also known as Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield - this three-actor comic work is "All of the best bits of Shakespeare rolled into one," said Ylaria Rogers, who is directing it as the sixth play in Canberra REP's 2023 season.
"All the plays get joyous, raucous, ridiculous love. For those who love Shakespeare it is a homage to his work and for those who don't, it is a ridiculous and fun night at the theatre."
Rogers said of the creators - all of whom belonged to the Royal Shakespeare Company - "They know their Shakespeare but if people don't know Shakespeare they will appreciate the comic timing, the fast humour and the Olympic nature of the acting involved."
The trio have a knack for comically cutting big things down to size: their other shows include The Complete History of America (abridged) and The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged).
But Rogers and company are taking a whirlwind tour through the ouevre of the Bard of Avon.
"It is an absolute joy. It pays homage to all the ideas in Shakespeare's plays and makes you laugh out loud. It can be like watching a football game of Shakespeare....sometimes literally."
Rogers was referring to the history plays, where all the conflicts are rolled into one, enacted on a very different kind of battlefield.
The 37 plays (plus sonnets) are brought to furious life by a trio of Players - Callum Doherty, Alex McPherson and Ryan Street.
Some are combined, some are condensed, some are briefly namechecked.
Titus Andronicus becomes a cooking show (for reasons the reader can guess, or discover).
Audiences will even learn a bit about Shakespeare himself.
Rogers said the play was fun for all ages.
"Young people will love the physical nature of the show and adults will appreciate the wit and humour. There have been points in rehearsals where actors and creatives have been rolling on the floor in laughter."
This might not be as long as a real Shakespeare play, but it's draining.
"The actors deliver herculean performances.
"To do all those plays and characters in the time allocated is like watching a marathon and a sprint at the same time. They plays multiple roles and, when in doubt, improvise."
Rogers has appeared in several Shakespeare plays - among her favourites was As You Like It, she said - and she's a fan.
"Oh, he's universal. I don't think you can go see a play now that doesn't involve at least one of concepts from his works. He is part of our culture and our language."
Callum Doherty at 19, is the baby of the troupe and in his first Rep show.
Although he's acted in Canberra for years, and had studied some Shakespeare at school, he'd never acted in a full Shakespeare play before.
Now, he's doing them all in one fell swoop - that's a Shakespeare reference, by the way, from a line spoken by Macduff, whom Doherty is playing in "the Scottish play", as he and other superstitious actors refer to Macbeth.
Since boys were cast in female roles during Shakespeare's time, Doherty also plays Violivia, who as the name suggests is a composite character representing the heroines of the comedies.
He gets to play the angsty youthful roles such as Romeo ("That sort of is obvious to everyone through my uncanny resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio") and, in the second half, Hamlet.
Since he will be playing only the Prince of Denmark in the second half he said he almost had the easiest job of the three Players - the others will be be juggling multiple roles while he has just the one.
But this won't be your traditional recounting of the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark, any more than the rest of the show presents Shakespeare for humourless purists.
"It's a very silly show but it does approach the material with a certain amount of respect," Doherty said.
And while the show itself is light, the physical demands it makes on the busy actors are anything but.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] is on at Canberra REP Theatre from November 16 until December 2, 2023. See: canberrarep.org.au.
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