Brush up on Shakespeare, but make sure to buckle up

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Brush up on Shakespeare, but make sure to buckle up

Queen Elizabeth I said that England wouldn’t trade Shakespeare for all of India, and there’s no doubt that the Bard has a unique place in British ― and Western ―culture. William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays in his lifetime, and to this day he is the most widely read author in English-speaking countries.
Starting next week, audiences in Korea will have the chance to familiarize themselves ―well, sort of ―with all 37 of those plays in about as much time as it takes to watch a movie.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” (abridged, mind you) is a comic medley of highlights from 37 of the Bard’s plays, acted out by three men in tights over an hour and a half.
This whirlwind bit of comic relief is the longest-running comedy production in London’s West End, and the original actors are coming to perform in Seoul this month and in Busan next month.
The three actors play out various scenes, taking on a total of 100 different characters from Shakespeare’s tragedies, comedies and historical dramas. They even recite some of the sonnets.
Newsweek called the show “dazzlingly fast and funny.” Gone are the drama and tension ―the agonizing of Hamlet, the grimmer implications of Henry V’s stirring speeches to his troops, the blood-soaked horror of Macbeth and his lovely wife. In this production, those characters are reprised in humorous, roller coaster-like scenes.
In Elizabethan garb (tights included), the actors spit out in rapid-fire fashion the lines from scenes like the dividing of the kingdom in “King Lear” and the strangulation of Desdemona in “Othello.”
The audience is well advised to stay alert, as the scenes change swiftly from one to the next. “Othello” is performed as a rap piece; “Hamlet” is acted out in reverse, with scenes from the end of the play performed first. “The Comedy of Errors,” “Henry VII,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Antony and Cleopatra” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” all get similarly irreverent treatment.
Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, and produced by John Saunders, “The Complete Works” has been going for nearly nine years.
Originally performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company in Britain, the show has toured the United States, Australia and Europe, and is in the midst of an Asian tour.
All three of the actors are natives of Australia. Two of them, Berynn and Tim Schwerdt, are brothers. (The third’s name is Ezra Bix.)
Korean subtitles will be provided.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” will be performed at the Towol Theater at Seoul Arts Center from March 30 to April 5. Weekday performances are held at 7:30 p.m., weekends at 3 and 7:30 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Tuesdays. There will be no performances on Monday.

by Choi Jie-ho

Ticket prices range from 30,000 won ($30) to 50,000 won. For tickets, visit or For more information, call (02) 541-6234.
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