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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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"You don't have to do it justice, you just have to do it" James McNicholas shouts at Lucy Woolliscroft, who protests at having to condense the entirety of Shakespeare's "hard-core" Hamlet to a single sketch. Unfortunately this statement could sum up proceedings.

One of the West End's longest running comedies, Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) played the Criterion for nine years. Their script has since been cut free and produced around the globe. This production finds itself at the New Red Lion - the first time the comedy has been revived in London.

Having updated the script McNicholas, Woolliscroft and Owen Roberts certainly approach it with gusto, but the overall picture is one of chaos. The comedies are reduced to a presentation, the histories to a rugby match, the sonnets find themselves abridged to a single double sided piece of paper.

At best the trio come across as over-enthused presenters, often as something far less polished. The slap-dash nature of the piece should be carrying the farce of it all - how could the Bard's entire canon possibly be condensed into a mere two acts? - but for the most part we see lukewarm Shakespeare performances with the parody hampered by clumsy delivery.

McNicholas delivers a redeeming performance, abandoned by his comrades he does a solid job of entertaining his audience. The piece's constant references to expecting Kevin Spacey to walk in make a poor running gag.

Woolliscroft surprises, giving a glimpse of the Shakespeare performance the company are capable of delivering in the second act. Unfortunately the majority of her time on stage leaves the audience in perpetual fear of her unleashing another - inexplicably amplified - shriek.


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