KNYSNA NEWS - ''If you hate Shakespeare, you'll love this show,'' cautioned the blurb promoting the side-splitting Shakespearian spoof hosted on opening night at Knysna's spanking new theatre last week. Just before adding, "If you love Shakespeare, you'll love this show.''
This contradictory jibing constitutes but a hint of what awaits in the wings of the rollicking rampage through old Willy's, well, uncompleted works.
A tight-knit Pythonesque package of "controlled chaos'', it contains a little something for everyone in a bright Coccini/Uderzo-like balance between astuteness and slapstick. Yet the eloquent, rapid-fire script and refreshingly understated delivery in fluent South-Africanese is not all punny one-liners, quasi-scatological quips and knee-slapping hilarity. The medley is surreptitiously brimming with historical data and background on The Bard's best (and worst) efforts.
Still one of the world's most popular shows, the piece was first penned by former founder-members of the British "Reduced Shakespeare Company'': Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield as The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged). First performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987, and later a nine-year run at London's Criterion Theatre, the play boasts the world record for the shortest-ever Hamlet (43 seconds) as well as the fastest for the same play backwards at one second less.
With a limited cast in various guises and minimal props, short shrift is made of the theatrical "fourth wall" as they (as well as the director and crew at times) address the audience directly and drag them into complicity through much of the on-stage activity.
There's Titus Andronicus as a cooking show, Othello "rapped" up neatly in staccato ghetto-verse and The Bard's "histories" embodied in a rugby game. The comedies, all being underpinned by the same old plot after all, are reduced to a single reading and the cast literally give up on the Apocrypha. Apart from the sonnets being breezed through by handing them out to the audience on cue-cards, the entire second half is dedicated to Hamlet with full audience participation.
The piece was perfectly selected for the Knysna occasion. It's what small-town community theatre should be about. A stage where you recognise the back end of the donkey as the local butcher by its ungainly gait, or the local librarian as the good witch by the same buckled black shoes she wears to work. In this case, intrepid amateur thespians of Sedgefield's Studio 42 comprising The Edge newspaper editor Bomber Webb, skilful mirth-invoker Nita Allsopp – a nurse by day – and Sedgefield psychologist Gareth Pretorius – all more than adequately doubling up as a host of Shakespearean characters.
Be on the lookout for the next event over the September school holidays at Knysna Theatre – a children's theatre performance by Plettenberg Bay's Lunchbox Theatre company.
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