Arts Club Theatre Company

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Wingfield

Directed by Diana Frances

by Jane Penistan

The Arts Club theatre presented an evening of topical and not so topical laughs with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). Performed by three actors, Toby Berner Nichcolas Harrison and David C. Jones, this was a fast moving show after the leisurely opening acknowledging the quantity and quality of Shakespeare's work. The audience was gradually sucked into an evening of participation, which some of its members were not expecting, and not all appreciated.

The play consists of a series of sketches of scenes from Shakespeare's plays, using the Bard's lines introduced and interspersed by contemporary dialogue. The actors change character rapidly with quick costume changes of cloaks, dresses and wigs. The potted version of Romeo and Juliet was played at breakneck speed with the three actors changing sexes and characters with every exit and entry.  At a slower pace, Titus Andronicus is transformed into a TV cooking show with appropriate offstage noises and plenty of "blood".

Throughout the evening Bard on the Beach patrons recognized many "references" to the Bard's previous seasons, Richard III and the gut-spilling death scene of Pyramus among others.

The second half of the evening was devoted to three different versions of Hamlet, abridged, fast and backwards. Being short of actors for this large cast play, what could the company do? The first solution was to use the old Vaudeville ploy of inviting members of the audience to join the actors on stage. The second was the clever use of puppets large and small.

The director, Diana Frances and the authors have used all the old tricks throughout the evening. These were performed with varying success, but, inevitably, some were overused. The costumes and very full stage set were amusing and appropriate caricatures. For warmth and laughter on a cold wet evening, the Arts Club is the place to go.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) runs at the Arts Club, Granville Island, from December 3 - January 3, at 8 p.m., with matinees on Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. No Show December 24 and 25. Shows December 26, 4 and 8 p.m. Holdover week to January 10.