Saturday, July 29, 2006

Shaking My Head at Shakespeare

Last evening Krista and I attended a performance at The Frazier International Museum of History. The performance takes a comedi look at the entire body of writing that Shakespeare has done. "The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged," as it was called, is a three man show in which the actors, recognizing they are actors performing a show, attempt to present a brief survey of the entire body of work that Shakespeare wrote. It was a clever show, hilarious at points, and very postmodern (aware of itself as a play. Very MacBeth like in that it was a play within a play.) There were moments of sheer hilarity, fun, and just plain entertainment. In my estimation it was a brilliant idea to take a stab at something so grand. As the three actors attempt to cover all the works of Shakespeare they do so in a very unique way. Their "reverant irreverance" brought forth some clever artistic expressions of the plays of Shakespeare. So all the comedies were done as one, "The Love Boat Goes to Verona". The histories were done as a football game in which the crown (the football) passes from one monarch to the next in the order of Shakespeare's plays. The tragadies, consuming most of the time, began with Romeo and Juliet (acted out with three men, which took on some fun itself) and concluded with a speedy, then backwards, performance of Hamlet. It was a fun evening.

But all of that makes me sad to say these next few words. I cannot recommend it to you. Why? Simply put the show contained far more crude, and filthy "humor" than I am comfortable with. Now one must allow for some, as Shakespeare's plays themselves deal with incest, lust, death, be-headings, and the like. Yet Shakespeare's way of dealing with them was not to indulge the flesh and glorify sin, which unfortunately was the aim of the writers in this production. Four or five "jokes" were strongly sexual (including two displays in which a character, dressed as a woman, pretends to masturbate on stage). Others jokes mocked morality, religion, and abortion. It was rather sad, I must say. Here I had hoped for a nice evening with my wife enjoying the classic works of Shakespeare in a fun new light, and found myself having to shake my head more than I would have liked. A cleaner version of this show would have revealed the great talent of the writers and actors, it would have made for a more interesting show in which the lowest level humour was not attained, and would have allowed me to encourage all to see it. But as it stands "The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged" is just too filthy to recommend. I suppose I am not really shaking my head at Shakespeare, then, but at this modern interpretation of the genius playwrite.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was tame compaired to the original script... I seen it as performed by the Reduced Shakespeare company.

There were -no- references to abortion... the only thing that I can think of is that you misinterpreted "From my mothers womb untimely ripped" to mean abortion which was from McBeath. This is one of the few actual lines from the actual play McBeath which means cesarian birth... not abortion.

As for the masturbation... maybe that was a bit much but if you have ever had the pleasure of seeing the play performed by a true Classical Shakespearian company you will find that it is a play that is full of sensuality, passion and yes... if done right things that are very adult in nature. If it's performed true to the script during a swordfight one character will hold a larger sword much like his genetailia and belittle the other about having an instrument so small.

Shakespears plays during his time were very cutting edge... and for his day even Romeo and Julliet was controversial.

As for the humor... yes it was a bit adult. I would not reccomend CHILDREN to go but adults who can understand it as humor by all means it is a funny and enjoyable play.

Unless you are a member of the extreme right wing of the republican party... which I suspect is the case here.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless if you approve my comment or not... I do suggest you read the actual "Complete works of Shakespeare" The big book non-abridged, to get a better understanding of the play. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to the stage directions.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think when he talked about the reference to abortion, one of the characters said "I believe in a women's right to choose."

9:16 PM  

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