‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’ was manic.
Shakespeare was inarguably a classic playwright revered by many creatives as one of the greatest writers of all time. Yet in his day, Shakespeare was just writing to entertain the masses. His works were created or copied as some theorize, to appeal to the lower and middle classes and it’s only posthumously that he was so respected.
‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’ gives the audience a sneak peek at all the plays written by the prolific playwright. Through snapshot re-enactment, rap, football games and even mashed-up plays within a play this script has so much to offer any keen actor or director.
Javeenbah Theatre Company has chosen an absolute winner production. Director Liam Mathers has perfectly recreated Shakespeare as it would have been done in his day, with complete irreverence. The clever set, a phenomenal cast, and audience interaction (don’t worry it isn’t as scary as it sounds) all brought Shakespeare into the 21st century with a very manic edge!
Mathers has done a wonderful job with his conceptual design of the set and props. His use of twelve or so boxes to create many interesting set configurations gave the stage a flexible, energised, and fluid design. The boxes, painted on one side with the face of the bard himself and on the other with poor Yorik, also served as props storage. A testament to the skills of this director and the tightness of this production was that each box had to be in the perfect position for every scene as they all contained specific pieces for each story. Three large coat racks stuffed full of costumes were also components of the fluid design, filling the rather large black box stage and providing useful walls, backdrops, and even entranceways.
Mathers’ direction of his cast was sublime. The three, yes three, actors that tackled this monster script all had a phenomenal rapport with each other, spot-on comedic timing, and personalities so big that they bounced off the back wall of the theatre. The use of the actor’s real names in the production brought a very personal tone to the piece and made the audience feel connected to them from the start.
Of particular note is Cassie Baan, an absolute standout within the show. Her goofy over-the-top performance made her shine on stage, yet not so much so that she blinded the other actors. Baan balanced her crazy-energizer-bunny-esque character perfectly so that she could hit the ridiculously high notes (literally with her scream as Ophelia) as well as bring a truthful and endearing quality to the character. Her comedic timing was spot on and every joke she made landed. Baan frequently interacted with the audience, and these moments were genuine and hilarious.
Laura Coulton was serious to Baan’s crazy, and what a perfect balance they were to each other. As the pre-eminent Shakespeare Scholar, Coulton’s character was a veritable well of knowledge. She kept the production moving through all the different plays. Her character’s profession by no means made her boring, and she threw herself into every facet of the production just as much as the others. From the rap to the football game, to her brilliant depiction of Hamlet, Coulton was just as big, bright, and manic as the rest of them.
The final side of this perfect comedic triangle was the delightful Kaela Gray. A mix of Baan’s craziness and the more serious Coulton, Gray successfully flipped between ridiculous characters, such as the lovesick Romeo ‘Di Caprio’, to her own sincere, professional self. She had the audience on her side from the first moment she stepped on stage and had them empathizing and encouraging her throughout the piece as she tried to wrangle her co-actors. Acting almost like the glue of the production, Gray truly kept the show going with her strength as an actor and her skills in comedy.
Many theatregoers shiver at the thought of audience interaction; the first time the house lights were brought up the audience groaned. However, this production changed any preconceptions people may have held about audience interaction. The cast was clever in their handling of the audience, working to their strengths and making them almost wish for more involvement. With the creation of such a comfortable and familiar atmosphere by the cast, one didn’t fret when asked to say something, get up on stage or even switch seats for a king.
All in all, ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’ was an absolute delight to witness. Filled with brilliant jokes, directed with finesse, and performed by an animated cast, prepare to leave the theatre with tears in your eyes and a stitch in your side.
‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)’ runs until Saturday, 23 November 2019. Tickets can be purchased at Javeenbah Theatre Company’s Website or by calling (07) 5596 0300.