Brothers take the Bard less than seriouslyTim and Berynn Schwerdt, two brothers born 13 months apart, share a passion for performing in the theater, which they discovered at the budding ages of five and six, respectively.
“It was during a poetry reading that our father organized,” says Berynn Schwerdt, the elder sibling.
“We were playing chimney sweeps, when one of us kicked something that made a lot of noise but we went on performing as if nothing had happened. It was a defining moment for us when we discovered the magic of theater,” Tim adds.
Since then, with more than 15 years of theatrical work behind them, the two have made quite a name for themselves on the Australian theater scene.
Tim and Berynn, both in their 30s, have been performing together in the comedy “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” for nearly four years. Along with Ezra Bix, the trio is in Seoul for performances running until Tuesday, before they move on to Busan for three days.
While it is the longest running comedy in London’s West End, “The Complete Works” is making its debut in Korea with the Australian team. Prior to Seoul, the group performed in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Macao, China and India. Their next stop: New Zealand.
The brothers travel together, perform together, and spend more time with each other than with anyone else. But there’s no sibling rivalry on stage. “I get to be more direct about feedback with my brother than with others,” Berynn says. “It’s great working with my brother,” Tim chimes in. In fact, the two are constantly kidding around, and being playful, whether on the road or during rehearsals. “Of course we argue during rehearsals, but it never gets serious,” Berynn says.
Berynn has a diverse range of professional experience under his belt, having done dance performances, comedies, musicals and opera, as well as acting in short films and television features. A graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, he also teaches at the Actors’ Center.
Tim, who recently married, worked mostly in New Zealand, performing in musicals such as “Grease.” He has also taught at the Playbox Theater in Melbourne, and even had a hand in producing plays such as “A Midsummer Nights’ Dream,” written by the Great Bard himself.
The two brothers are the only actors among four brothers and one sister.
In “The Complete Works,” Tim mostly plays female Shakespearean characters, such as Ophelia to Berynn’s Hamlet, and the producer says mischievously, “There’s a bit of incest in the show.” Tim is treated like a pouting younger brother while Berynn is the grim and responsible older one. The two joke that given all the time they spend together with their stage partner Bix, their parents may adopt him.
The brothers say you don’t have to know Shakespeare to enjoy the show, since not all the dialogue is the original Shakespearean version. Indeed, there is a considerable amount of modern day jargon and verbal sparring, not to mention hip-hop and rap.
In keeping with their idiosyncratic style of performing tailor-made shows, references to Korea are constantly made, including the current Dokdo controversy.
There are three major trios performing “The Complete Works” ― one in London’s West End, the other in the United States, and, finally, the Australian team. Tim says, “By far, we are the best [among the three],” to which the others nod seriously.
“It’s the top 100 hits of Shakespeare without the boring bits,” Tim says. What’s more, you’ll see perpetual mention of the sibling relationship between Tim and Berynn throughout the show.
Because the show requires the three actors to “sprint through” 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in a span of 97 minutes, afterwards they are incredibly exhausted and burned out. “You can lose two to three kilos after performing for a season,” Tim says.
by Cho Jie-ho