Shakespeare Reduced

The Complete Works, New Orleans Style

The Complete Works, New Orleans Style

Reduced Shakespeare New Orleans Style

Last evening we went to see our first show as part of the Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged). The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s parody had its first outing with their version of Hamlet back in 1981 and had reached its still much-internationally-performed form by the mid 1980s. The show requires just three actors, so it’s eminently and economically producible. It is characterised by quick costume changes, an improvisatory quality, audience involvement, and the space it allows for the incorporation of local references and quips as might be best appropriate for a particular audience. The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) played at the Criterion Theatre in London’s West End for 9 years. Somehow I’d managed to avoid it until last evening. At the beginning of the show, one of the actors, apparently wanting to guage how well the audience knew their Shakespeare asked for a show of hands. Had we ever seen a Shakespeare play? Many hands went up. Had anyone ever seen King John? Many hands went down.  The other Paul and I were left a little exposed at this point and, when pressed from the stage, admitted that we’d both read and seen King John. And so the evening got underway. As the succession of broad and verbal comedy unfurled before me, I was reminded of vaudeville and farce, and of the long distinguished tradition of Shakespearian parody, perhaps beginning as early as George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston’s Eastward Ho! (1605) which jokingly includes a character called Hamlet. But this was Shakespeare parody New Orleans style, knowing gumbo served with aplomb and devoured with relish. After the show we had the pleasure of interviewing the cast who you can hear  in this soundpost, in order of appearance: Clint Johnson, Andrew Vaught and Brendan Bowen. They talk to us about the nature of parody, how their performances relate to the Tulane festival’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Clint is playing Puck, and Brendan, Snout), and why New Orleans reminds them of Shakespeare’s London.

 

7.10.14

Paul Edmondson.

2 responses on “The Complete Works, New Orleans Style

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  • Janet says:

    I saw the London production of Abridged, and was most impressed by the extreme contrast between the unfolding parody of the stage performance and the 19th C pros-arch stage itself (and the theatre that encased the two). The beautiful architecture and decoration of the theatre gave the audience a feeling of by-gone
    elegance which quickly dissipated when every vaudeville “boobs” joke flowed effortlessly from the Nurse

  • Janet says:

    from RNJ. Thank you for sharing your response to the humour and delight that parody of the texts can give to a broad spectrum of audience member Shakespeare experiences.

2 responses on “The Complete Works, New Orleans Style

Your email address will not be published.

  • Janet says:

    I saw the London production of Abridged, and was most impressed by the extreme contrast between the unfolding parody of the stage performance and the 19th C pros-arch stage itself (and the theatre that encased the two). The beautiful architecture and decoration of the theatre gave the audience a feeling of by-gone
    elegance which quickly dissipated when every vaudeville “boobs” joke flowed effortlessly from the Nurse

  • Janet says:

    from RNJ. Thank you for sharing your response to the humour and delight that parody of the texts can give to a broad spectrum of audience member Shakespeare experiences.

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