A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company

October 28, 2010

The Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

“Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet did he? It must be a missprint – it’s a Mel Gibson movie.”

If you’ve been following or little blog here then you know by now that Amanda and I are big fans of William Shakespeare. We own quite a few adaptations of Shakespeare and have the intention to purchase a great many more. Amanda has a fairly good scholarly background in Shakespeare having taken courses examining his words both in High School and College, whereas I have only read a couple of his plays but always enjoy seeing them performed. So it’s only natural that we should completely love this fantastic and simple piece of live comedy theater which manages to at least mention every one of Shakespeare’s plays and does passable abbreviated versions of the most well-known of them.

We have watched this so many times that we pretty much have it memorised. Indeed after sitting through the four-hour-long uncut Kenneth Branagh Hamlet we actually threw this in and watched it as well, just because it’s so much fun. How many productions of Hamlet include an encore, and then a second encore?

According to the commentary on the DVD (which is FULL of nifty little tidbits and well worth watching if you get a chance) the whole production started out as a piece performed by a couple members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company at ren-fests. (In particular this is why the opening play, Romeo & Juliet, is actually a two-man production.) Since then the company has set up shop in London where they performed this play for years. They also have adapted the Complete History of America (Abridged) and The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) and the Complete Hollywood (Abridged).

The concept here is that you have three guys on stage performing all the major roles in every play Shakespeare ever wrote. It’s full of quick changes, slapstick, modern-day references, audience participation and general silliness. In the version captured here on the DVD the three are Adam Long (one of the writers, who gives himself the part of being a somewhat dimwitted buffoon most of the time) Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. Of course like any traveling company the actual cast changes over time (one of the other writers has a cameo on the DVD as an audience member brought up on stage to take part in the play.)

What I enjoy about this so much is that it has a kind of reverence to it at the same time that it spoofs the plays. Sure they’re constantly cracking jokes and playing around, but the guys actually seems to think that Shakespeare is still relevant today, and you get the impression that the whole production is as much an homage and tribute to Shakespeare as it is a farce. I know that were I to ever teach Shakespeare I would definitely include this movie as part of the curriculum. Watching this makes me want to watch more Shakespeare, and likewise whenever I watch Shakespeare seriously performed it makes me want to watch this again.

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October 28, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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