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Napier Little Theatre’s latest show: Shakespeare but not as you know it

Hawkes Bay Today

6 Jun, 2024 10:43 AM


What: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)

Where: Little Theatre, McGrath St Napier

When: June 5 to 15, 7.30pm Tickets at

Reviewed by: Keith Russell

Shakespeare has been part of the English language for more than 400 years and as long as theatre persists will continue to enthral and delight audiences. While many interpretations have been staged, Napier Repertory Players’ continues its proud tradition of presenting challenging theatre with its latest comedy The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, (abridged), written by English writers Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield.

Running for nine years in London’s West End, this is an attempt by three actors - in this case, John Cocking QSM, Stephen Evans and Jack Garvey - to condense all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays down to 97 minutes. Think Romeo and Juliet in 12 minutes. They are forced to use highly creative, unusual, and funny ways, like performing Othello as a rap song, even with all the comedic bits, there is much use of Shakespeare’s lines.

It’s a testament to the actors’ skills that they can switch between Shakespeare’s words and modern speech so quickly and effortlessly. There are moments when the power and beauty of Shakespeare are allowed to fully shine, the “to be or not to be” soliloquy is stunningly beautiful.

Sharyn Hildreth’s direction is deceptive, appearing chaotic but with so much audience participation she allows the cast to improvise while perfecting their ability to be unaware they are funny. The script is nothing more than a framework giving each performance a very individual flavour. The humour ranges from the coarse to the sublime. This is the formula the Bard himself used to entertain all levels of society.

Evans had the most solo time on stage and did an excellent job of pacing the show, Garvey played most of the female characters in a believable way but, as I would expect, Cocking was most at home interacting with the audience.

All three had good stage presence and voice projection along with competent physicality, but what was most impressive was the chemistry and the trust they displayed between themselves.

Lighting and sound were well controlled.

This show defiantly confirms that “brevity is the soul of wit” and even if you hated Shakespeare and didn’t get it at school you will leave loving this show. Not only is it a great tribute to an icon, it is also a tremendous lesson in how theatre evolved and I am sure that if the Bard had seen this production he would have changed one of his immortal lines, “To see or not to see - no question here”.

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