The challenge any Shakespearean adaptation faces is to find original expression. Hamlet has wandered the streets of New York declaiming soliloquies on a cell phone and Romeo and Juliet has had a backdrop of Hindu-Muslim riots. However, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" takes originality a step forward, or rather fast forward. The 97-min laugh riot presents an irreverent interpretation of the Bard's 37 plays.
The ensemble consist of three caricatures - a pompous pedant who aims to educate the illiterate masses about the greatness of William Shakespeare, his eager sidekick and the recalcitrant schoolboy-like actor who draws the line at performing Coriolanus (come on, are you really interested in a play with an anus in its title?). Adopting an often puerile but shamelessly funny attitude, the comic trio engages the audience at every twist and turn.
The comedies are compiled into three volumes with convoluted, ludicrous titles and rehashed formulaic plots. The histories are tackled as a rambunctious televised football game, where getting your hands on the coveted crown is the ultimate goal. Othello gets a dose of black humour with its upbeat rapping.
Well-timed slapstick gags sexual innuendo ("how to love Willy") and ribald humour confirm that Shakespeare's place isn't on a dusty academician's shelf but out on stage entertaining people. More than just a clever send up, the play is a celebration of Shakespeare's genius.This article was first published on 15 Jan 2003.