The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Dates: 25 November 2004 - 8 January 2005
Venue: Granville Island Stage

Reviewer: John Jane





David C. Jones
David C. Jones being Juliette

This Arts Club Theatre Company production of Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield's witty adaptation of Shakespeare’s works may have had the immortal Bard turning in his grave on hearing his prose and verse churned into knockabout comedy that was sometimes hilarious and other times just plain silly.

The title “Complete Works” is a misnomer. The players spent the first thirty minutes lampooning a compressed Romeo and Juliet, while the second act was dedicated to a pantomime-styled presentation of Hamlet, including one version at breakneck speed and another in reverse.

In between, the sixteen comedies were squeezed together into a single plot and worked into a two-and-a-half minute skit. The historical works also received short shrift, with Richard III, Henry IV and King John interpreted through a football gridiron.

When not in Shakespearean character, Toby Berner, David C. Jones, and Brad MacNeil performed under their own names. Jones’s participation in the comparatively leisurely prologue involved being blended into the general audience.

The trio of players, wearing tights and identical black ‘Converse’ sneakers, certainly offered a very different spin on all the Bard’s works.





The humour was essentially slapstick, but mostly intelligently delivered at an awesome pace. Serious Bardolaters, who, having had their sensibilities offended, then finding themselves thrust into audience participation, were, however, still in attendance at the end.

The talented threesome were at their best when turning tragedies into comedies. Macbeth, for instance, was a clever spoof, performed with the thickest Glaswegian accents heard outside a Scottish soccer stadium.

Not all the comic improvisation came across so well. Jones’s “Don’t want to do Hamlet” shtick, which overlapped from the end of the first act, through the intermission, and into the second act, was embarrassingly overdone.

Berner MacNeil
Toby Berner and Brad MacNeil "doing" Hamlet

Yvan Morrisette’s set design, consisting of a casually constructed, scaled-down mediaeval village, was as basic as it gets and still be noticed.

Whether or not you are a Shakespeare devotee, you are sure to find something enjoyable in this novel production. Try and catch this show before 9 January. You likely won’t be disappointed.

2004 John Jane