Review: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

I had a chance to see a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised) on Saturday night here in Vancouver. It was the very last performance of their 11-day run at the Jericho Arts Centre. The three-man play was performed by local talents Robin Jung, Sean Parsons, and David Ortynsky, and it was directed by David C. Jones.

When my friend told me they were doing The Complete Works here in Vancouver, I leapt at the chance to go. I had seen the play twice before, first in London and a second time in Seoul. I’ve also read the script several times and watched the recording of the original cast members’ performance. Needless to say, I really love this play.

I attended the performance with two of my friends, one of whom had never seen it before. Getting to the venue was a bit of an adventure, involving something of a trek through a winding road through the woods. We got there out of breath and just in the nick of time. It wasn’t until we sat down that I realized just how different this production of The Complete Works would be in comparison to the other times I’ve seen it.

The Jericho Arts Centre is a very small and intimate venue, and the stage was set up in the very center of the room, with the audience seated on either side. There were only about forty people (a generous estimate), and since the The Complete Works requires a fair amount of audience participation, I was a bit worried at first. As it turns out, there was no need for concern. Everyone was very involved in the performance, laughing uproariously and playing along with the actors.

The actors themselves did a wonderful job tackling a truly difficult play. The Complete Works is famous for condensing all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays into one 90-minute performance, and requires each actor to juggle a dozen different roles. There’s a fair bit of athleticism required, as well, with countless costume changes and choreographed fight scenes and nonstop running. Their performance is all the more impressive considering two of the actors, Jung and Ortynsky, made their professional debuts with this play.

 

Jung and Parsons, with Ortynsky seated in the audience.

The pre-eminent Shakespearean scholar is not impressed with this plebeian.

“Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?”

Juliet is a stunning beauty.

In the painful throes of death…

A standing ovation!

My only regret? It’s my third time seeing this play and I still haven’t had the chance to shout: “Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking and I want babies NOW!”

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Written by radiophile