The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Cremorne Theatre, QPAC (Tim Woods Entertainment)


By Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield

Professional production

The task? To perform all 37 Shakespeare plays in 97 minutes, and your time starts NOW!
BR> Ok, let’s start with 20 minutes of warm-up (lots of usher jokes and intellectual redemption here, as long as you’re not a USQ student); add twenty minutes of Romeo and Juliet with the endearing new term “butt-love” to add to your vocabulary (Act II, scene ii, line 35 – look it up yourself!); Titus Andronicus (read Titus Androgynous) as a cooking show, and if you know the play you’ll realise that Jamie Oliver has a lot to learn; a rap version of Othello in five minutes; all 16 comedies in three minutes, The Scottish Play in one minute; Julius Caesar in three seconds; Antony and Cleopatra in 10 seconds; an interpretive dance version of Troilus and Cressida in four minutes, the history plays as a four-minute State of Origin match: and you’re up to – INTERVAL!

And thank goodness for that, for by this time you’re almost as exhausted as the actors pretend not to be, and you’d better increase that interval glass of wine to at least two (order them before the show), because you’re going to need them, especially if you’re called Old Ray and you’re a bit of a wig man.

A word of warning here – don’t sit in the front row or, indeed, on the end of any row; and especially don’t admit that you’ve read King John, unless you want your eyes burnt out with red-hot pokers. Actually, that’s one of the few interesting facts about that play that they leave out, but don’t you worry about that – I’m sure they’ll incorporate it in later shows, because there’s almost as much improvisation as script in this show, and even on first night the local jokes about Arts degrees from USQ, and Juliet using grey water for her balcony pot plants, were flowing smoothly. They kept excusing their very bad version of Hamlet (a small town which Damian Callinan doesn’t like because he’s a vegetarian, with no shops and a winery that opens only at weekends) by suggesting that we pop in to see a better production next door – QTC’s rather more serious version is on at The Playhouse from 25 April, but I wouldn’t advise seeing both plays on consecutive nights, as you need time to adjust your head space after this wicked travesty.

You don’t even need to know much about Shakespeare for this larrikin layabout rendition, because it’s the sight gags and the bad puns that make it so funny, even for purists. The first-night audience was mainly a young crowd, possibly because they know Frank Woodley from Spicks and Specks on ABC Wednesday night television, but the other two performers are equally good, and so different from each other in physical looks and personality that there’s no need to work out who’s doing what and with which and to whom. Well, maybe there is, and even the morning after I can’t quite remember because I was laughing so much, but it doesn’t really matter.

Damian Callinan is the stocky dopy one, a bovver boy who opens the show as a QPAC usher dragged on stage to keep the audience happy while the others find their props, and he played so many roles I can’t decide which ones I loved best. Although maybe the hapless Romeo, in a wig even less fetching than Juliet’s, or Macbeth with a weird Scottish accent, or his attempt to think up a swear-word to break some spell or other (the best he could come up with was “scrotum”, which he defended on the grounds that it was just like your nanna without a face, and I know I shouldn’t repeat that, but I keep breaking up every time I think of it), will stay longest in my memory.

Meanwhile Keith Adams stalks about being theatrical in a Denzel Washington or a thinner Frank Thring kind of way, horrified by the antics of these amateurs although, when he plays Hamlet, the way he reacts to his father’s ghost (played very effectively by a white sock dangled from the flies) is a professional lesson in how not to do it. His love scenes with the hairy-chested Ophelia (Frank Woodley, the reluctant audience member dragged up on stage and made to perform all the girly parts in a succession of execrable wigs) would immediately drive any young woman to a nunnery by choice, even if you interpret “nunnery” as “whorehouse” as the Elizabethans did.

As audience we too got to play many parts, from the Elizabethan (as opposed to the now-forbidden Mexican) wave to Ophelia’s id, ego and super-ego (I was in the idgroup, who had to call out “Cut the crap, Hamlet, my biological clock’s ticking, I want to have babies NOW!”). And when, after 45 minutes (but who’s counting?) of Hamlet in the second half, the five performers took their bow (Old Ray and the effervescent Robert from the audience had joined them on stage), and we all thought it was over, they performed the play again in a mere five minutes, because John Howard had cut their budget, and then in fifteen seconds and then, in place of an encore, they did it backwards – and believe me, you had to be there, because they got it word perfect.

What can I say? Ninety-seven minutes it ain’t – I made it 145 not counting the interval – but this strange eventful history is no second childishness and mere oblivion, for though it be madness, yet there is method in ‘t – even if it’s method acting. (And I know you’ll appreciate the gratuitous erudition there.)

So don’t miss it – please. You’ll probably find me there, because I want to see it again and again – and after this review, there had better be as many free tickets as I’d like! Or possibly not, because it’s almost sold out, so get in NOW, or your time will be up.

Director John Saunders

Designer Shaun Gurton

Playing until Sunday 27 May 2007: Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm, Matinees Wednesday 1pm, Saturday 2pm, Sunday 3pm

Duration : 2 hours 45 minutes, with one 20-minute interval

— Alison Cotes
(Performance seen: Thu 19th April 2007)