Two years after the exiting the West End (See News, 22 Feb 2005), The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) will return, running for a limited summer season from 21 June (previews from 12 June) to 23 September 2007 at the Arts Theatre.

The West End’s longest-running comedy, the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s signature hit The Complete Works ran for nearly a decade at Piccadilly Circus’ Criterion Theatre, where it opened in March 1996 and was joined at various points by subsequent Reduced abridgements, The Bible - The Complete Word of God (abridged) and The Complete History of America (abridged).

Prior to its record-breaking run at the Criterion, the show had a limited season at the Arts in 1992 as part of its ongoing touring schedule. It has also had myriad international productions. This is a new staging of the same show, but it is not presented by the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

In The Complete Works, a trio of comic actors race irreverently through all of the Bard's 37 plays in just 97 minutes. Hamlet is performed forwards, backwards and sideways, Titus Andronicus is presented as a TV cookery programme and Othello as a rap. And as, according to abridgement theory, the comedies aren't anywhere near as funny as the tragedies, all 16 are condensed into Four Weddings and a Transvestite.

The new production at the Arts, which re-launched itself as an Off-West End venue last October (See News, 27 Jul 2006), is presented by Mark Goucher, Act Productions and Wimpole Theatre in association with the Arts Theatre.

- by Terri Paddock