This production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
is as high energy as you can imagine. The stamina of this group of actors is
something really quite astonishing. They commit every ounce of themselves to
every moment they share the stage, and manage to create an inspiring amount of semi-controlled
Major kudos goes to director Jethro Pidd for his mastery of
the physical aspects of directing for performance. He’s blocked, rehearsed, and
energised the show with unrelenting slapstick, acrobatics, and choreography that
characterise the best aspects of the show.
The set too, whilst relatively simple, is quite ingeniously
designed – easily transforming from something resembling (and, I imagine,
referencing) an enormous book of Shakespeare’s complete works, into a series of
curtains, arrases, and a completely necessary throne in the centre.
You’re met with music, designed by director, Pidd, upon
entering the historic Stirling Community Theatre, which perfectly strikes the
balance between contemporary and period, and sets the mood for the evening to a
tee. You should expect hints at antiquity, without any expectation of accuracy.
This show is designed to entertain, not to introduce you to Shakespeare. Those with
some familiarity going in will best appreciate the humour. However, it’s so contemporarily
written, with up-to-date references (the recent end of Neighbours, for
example), and entry level discussions of Shakespeare’s oeuvre that audiences of
all intellectual and cultural backgrounds, as well as age groups, will find no
difficulty following and enjoying most of the show. Opening night had all ages
in the crowd, and there was no discernible difference in the level of
appreciation between the children and the blue-hairs. I know, because the audience
are encouraged to take part in the show, so when they bring the house lights
up, there’s no hiding a beaming smile.
It must be stressed that this is a high energy show.
If you go to the sleepy Stirling theatre expecting a relaxing evening with a
glass of red, you will be jolted awake from such reverie in short shrift. In
fact, whilst the effort each actor gives in performance is admirable, even
inspiring, it is really unrelenting. There is very little opportunity for an
audience member to catch their breath and settle in (not to mention the actors,
themselves). It’s a full-throttle show from go to whoa, and despite the clearly
farcical nature of the writing, it could benefit from a bit of light and shade.
It’s a full-frontal energy assault, which can be a lot for an audience to bear
over two and a half hours.
The show would benefit from strengthening inter-cast
chemistry. Each actor gives their all individually, but their energies are very
particular, and the lack of cohesion can be distracting. One of the actors
seems to be going into conniptions and speaking in tongues, while another is committing
to character. One needs to be pulled back, and another could go for more.
Jethro Pidd’s performance was a nice fulcrum, restrained,
and centring the others’ focus – extra impressive since he stepped into the
role on late notice when the actor previously playing the part had to pull out
due to illness, and David Salter became a crowd favourite, perforce. The others
had their moments to shine, though there’s one who needs to take the foot off
the accelerator a little, from time to time, who actually became a bit
frightening when in the audience and wielding (or whirling) a sword.
This is a fun show if you’re in the need for a pick me up.
Go to the Stirling theatre to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and
you’ll need a prescription to sleep that night. Pidd’s choreography and
designing are fantastic, and the actors are energiser bunnies on amphetamines.