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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged): An amalgamation of humour, brilliance, and creativity

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) , aka “TCWWWSA” (yes, it is a mouthful) marks my first live show in over 3 years. Amidst all the ups and downs of the pandemic, watching this gave me some sense of normalcy. But I digress, walking into the theatre laden with flashing neon lights and the thumping bass of Electronic Dance Music was not quite what you would expect walking through the hallways of the KC Arts Centre. Feels more like stepping into a club, It was rather apt given the stage setup and creating a light-hearted atmosphere. 97 minutes and a surmised version of 37 plays, seems like an impossible feat at first glance, especially with a four-person cast. Playing a multitude of characters from the likes of Romeo and Juliet to Antony and Cleopatra, it was 97 minutes of pure enjoyment, with a slight Singaporean twist to it in certain parts.
The stage setup comprising of graffiti adorned walls and the steel structures juxtaposed with the traditionally dated works of Shakespeare was kind of giving us the signal that there this performance will retain some aspects of modernity. The show kicked off with a slightly exaggerated and perhaps inaccurate overview of Shakespeare’s background by the talented quartet comprising of Erwin, Dennis, Tia and Shane. Mainly for the laughs of course, after all it is a parody of his works. Now, here comes the fun stuff, a truncated re-enactment of Romeo and Juliet ending this bit with Romeo attempting to pry the bottle of poison from “Juliet” to no avail. As Juliet tells him “I cannot, Rigor Mortis” in the syllable timed, distinct Singaporean accent which we’ve all come to love. Sprinkling a little bit of home in Shakespeare. I like that.

Then came your not so average cooking show. Now Titus Andronicus is arguably one of Shakespeare’s more gruesome works, but the cast made it a little more palatable by incorportating some humour into their gruesome narration of the infamous pie (do google the plot at your own risk). Prior to watching the show, never in a million years did I expect see Othello performed as a rap. When the quartet burst out looking straight out of a 90s rap video. Decked out in fur jackets, gold chains and sunglasses, that was pretty eyebrow raising and a little unexpected. In a good way of course, just goes to show the unpredictable nature of the play as they zoom through the most essential parts of the Bard’s works while keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

The cursed Scottish play, also known as Macbeth, was what I would call, the ultimate parody. Performed as a folk song with tartan prints, fake beards and over the top Scottish accents. Had me in stitches, but the best was yet to come. The histories were presented in a rather unconventional manner. It’s not everyday which you get to see two cast members poking one another with what resembles honey dippers in red paint. However, their brilliance showed in this segment. With Dennis on the violin accompanied by Tia’s rapid-fire narration. Erwin and Shane timed their movements to each crescendo, decrescendo, and pizzicato of the violin. I will admit, I hardly caught much of it but the preciseness of this definitely caught my attention.

The cast saved the best for last, with Hamlet, rather appropriate considering that it is his longest play after all. With only a couple of minutes left out of the allotted 97 minutes, it creates a bit of a thrill among the audience knowing they’re pressed for time. They delivered though, performing the truncated version of Hamlet in double speed and even allocating for time to do it in reverse. Think rewinding a show or a movie but swap out videos for the cast doing it in real life. Definitely not an easy feat to do, especially if you take into account speaking in reverse.

While the run of this show has ended, I’m glad to have been able to catch it on its very last night. Watching this has reignited my interest in theatre and if anyone would like to see the OG version of “TCWWWSA” I would suggest searching up the Reduced Shakespeare Company. While it was an enjoyable experience, my only gripe would be that I would have preferred slightly more drawn-out version of the histories. It felt just a little bit too truncated for my liking. Sure, you won’t walk out of the theatre as an expert in all things Shakespeare once this show ends. It is not meant to be a crash course of all of Shakespeare’s works. If you enjoy slapstick humour and exaggerated interpretations, this show is for you. Would I watch this cast in action again? For sure, especially if they were to produce an actual music video of Othello performed as a rap (unlikely, but one can always wish).

Overall Rating: 8/10

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