The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) has posted early closing notices at the Arts Theatre (See News, 30 Apr 2007). The comedy opened for a limited summer season on 21 June 2007 (previews from 12 June) and was due to continue until 23 September. It will now finish on 2 September, three weeks earlier than planned.

Previously 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. The cast are Gary Fannin, Michael O'Connor and John Schwab.

- by Terri Paddock