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REVIEW: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), The Attic Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon





The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), The Attic Theatre, until June 23

By Peter Buckroyd

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), The Attic Theatre, until 23rd June

A performance of this play is always great fun and a splendid choice for the reopening of the Attic Theatre after its enforced closure because of the floods at Cox’s Yard. Tread the Boards Company excel themselves.

Maybe audience members who know Shakespeare’s plays will get more out of it, but you don’t need to know the plays to enjoy all the comedy.

The Complete Works at the Attic Theatre. Photo: Andrew Maguire
The Complete Works at the Attic Theatre.                    Photo: Andrew Maguire

Director Ash Bayliss is full of inventive ideas. There are lots of impersonations of well-known Shakespearian actors, lots of references to contemporary events, a plethora of innuendo and some hilarious moments where actors decontextualize words and provide inappropriate actions.

The extended reduced versions are Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, including hilarious fight scenes, but the 16 comedies are reduced brilliantly into one where those who know the plays can try to identify which play the sometimes tiny fragments of text belong to. The flyer advertises a performance of all 37 plays, but one is absent. There is no Coriolanus. Perhaps you will enjoy the reason why. And to demonstrate the versatility of the actors there is a serious and touching rendition of the ‘What a piece of work is a man’ speech from Hamlet.

The Complete Works at the Attic Theatre. Photos: Andrew Maguire
The Complete Works at the Attic Theatre. Photos: Andrew Maguire

There are just three actors who do everything. John-Robert Partridge acts as the boss (he doesn’t really need to act the role!) who introduces the play and the cast as well as taking part in all the scenes. The splendidly comic Joshua Chandos has the starring role in many of the plays and George Ormerod, whom we have not seen in a Stratford Tread the Boards production before, is a great contrast to the other two and excels in bewildered silliness.

If you like impersonations, a vast range of accents, lots of modern references, slapstick and loads of interaction with the audience and slick, sometimes comic, lighting and sound effects then this is the play for you.

The Complete Works at the Attic Theatre. Photos: Andrew Maguire
The Complete Works at the Attic Theatre. Photos: Andrew Maguire

But there are cleverly amateurish costumes, ridiculous wigs to die for and puppets, too. And masses of really stupid things, like the presentation of Hamlet backwards.

The 97 minutes playing time (and they give us all of them, including the last two and a half) flies by.

Don’t miss this fine show.



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