The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), by Adam Long, Daniel Singer & Jess Winfield | Directed by Tom Massey

Genesian Theatre | Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent St, Sydney | Until 8 August

It’s been a while since I visited the Genesian, and I was pleased to see that nothing has changed: still as cosy and friendly as ever, and still providing good quality, old-fashioned live theatre at a reasonable price.

Like Director Tom Massey, I first saw The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in the late 90s — although I was in London’s West End rather than the Seymour Centre. And, like Tom, I fell in love with its rapid pace, hilarity and wit. Despite the humour, the show also managed to maintain a sincere appreciation of the Bard’s works.

Writers Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield developed a flexible script that allows for casts to improvise, use current pop culture allusions and local references. I’m pretty sure that late 90s version didn’t include Wikipedia, Luna Park or Mechagodzilla. Who said Shakespeare isn’t relevant to today’s society?

There’s also a fair amount of audience participation, so if you do choose the front row or aisle seats, be warned! The “fourth wall” in this production not only doesn’t exist, it’s been vomited through — and my Plus One almost ended up becoming a human sacrifice at the end of Act 1. But it’s all in good hey-nonny-no fun.

Amalgamating or truncating all of Shakepeare’s works — including his sonnets, in a very cute manner which I won’t give away — into less than two hours including interval means a lot of work for a cast of three (Jessica Gray, Jamie Collette and Barry Nielsen). They manage this marathon task very well with countless minor costume and prop changes, and still leaving enough steam for a mighty “encore”.

Nielsen, in particular, uses his experience and excellent timing to great effect. He makes quite the fetching Juliet, and his “layered” approach to Ophelia was brilliant. Gray and Collette also have their highlights, and manage some pretty fast and furious fencing as well.

Opening night nerves/adrenaline meant some fluffed lines, and the pacing varied, but the big finale went off smoothly, and had everyone cheering.

A minimalist stage, some fancy backstage footwork and snappy sound and lighting complement the action to make this version of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) a delight. Get thee to the Genesian.