What is the show?
It’s a high-energy comedy that takes on all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in roughly 97 minutes. Talk about being ambitious! What it’s really about though is three characters desperately trying to stage all of Shakespeare’s works in an hour and a half with hilarious consequences; so it’s as much about these three whacky characters tripping over themselves, each other and Shakespeare, as much as it is about the Bard’s work.
The play itself was first written and performed in 1987 in the US. Since then it played at the Criterion Theatre in London for nine years and has been performed in a variety of languages worldwide and is considered to be the most popular play in the world!
Hold on: it’s three guys and all of Shakespeare? Excuse us while we take that in...
That’s where the magic ingredient comes in: comedy! Although our version has two women and one guy, it doesn’t change the fact that you have three people playing dozens of characters. True to Shakespearean tradition, the show will have men dressed as women, women dressed as men and even men dressed as women dressed as men. Oh, the fun never ends!
Why do it?
Why not? Shakespeare is extremely daunting to many people and this is a great way to have fun with his plays, get a whistle-stop tour of his work, and see that Shakespeare is really approachable, relevant and can be interpreted in a light-hearted way. From a personal point of view, though, putting on this show is really a way to reach out to local communities, introduce them to Shakespeare in a fun and interactive way, and hopefully encourage Qatar’s inhabitants, whether local or expat, to spend more time in the theatre and in the wonderful world of Shakespeare.
So this isn’t ‘serious’ Shakespeare then?
Depends on what you mean by “serious”. The rehearsal period will be very serious work for the actors and everyone else involved in the production. It’s also serious in the sense that we aren’t taking this play lightly, despite the fact that it is light-hearted. At the end of the day, though, this is a comedy, with slapstick and satire galore.
How do you rehearse a show like this?
This play is very fluid and interactive. It relies a lot on audience interaction and improvisation, so you can’t really stick to the “same old same old” formula you would use for other shows. Our rehearsals will have improvisational games, physical movement, singing, dancing and character development.
What’s your favourite part of the show?
Where do I start? Every line of Shakespeare (I’m a big fan), the Othello rap (you heard right, I said Othello rap), performing the whole of Hamlet in less than a minute (and possibly even backwards), and the prospect of ridiculous audience interaction and ad-libbing.
Do you think people in Qatar will ‘get’ it?
Absolutely! I’ve learnt to never underestimate your audience; it could be fatal. One of the mainstays of The Complete Works is the fact that it can and should be tailored to the locale it is being performed in. That means we are going to be playing around with the script a lot; removing references that wouldn’t make sense in Qatar and replacing them with ones that are relevant to our diverse community. This play has been performed all over the world, and has been received with gusto each time!
What kind of reaction are you expecting?
Any reaction is better than no reaction at all. So whether people laugh, cry, cheer or boo, we will take it as a compliment. The only thing we won’t be happy with is people falling asleep in the audience; which is why I will keep a bucket of water and a megaphone handy at all times. Sleepy audience members will be in for a rude awakening!
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at the National Theatre, Feb 28- March 1. For time and ticket price contact email@example.com or call 4447 4911.