ComedyDramaReviewSouth East

The Complete Deaths – Festival Theatre, Chichester

Adapter/Director: Tim Crouch
Designer: Lucy Bradridge
Composer:  Toby Park 
Reviewer: Bill Avenell

It all depends on your point of view. If silliness, clever ideas, slapstick, a bit of puerile humour and generally no sense of anything deep and meaningful leads to a good night out then The Complete Deaths is for you. If it is important to have a purpose in a play, a tight witty script, a sense of direction and you don’t like blood or flies then stay away from The Minerva this week.

Certainly, the majority of the full house in this intimate theatre are in the former camp and, buying into the whole thing, get a splendid performance by the four talented comic artists that are Spymonkey and who cover the whole range from pantomime to tragedy and burlesque to soliloquy.

Originally conceived by the company and Tim Crouch, who also directs, as their contribution to the general celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, this piece does exactly what it says on the tin and re-enacts all 75, or 76 if you include the fly, on-stage deaths in Shakespeare. Why? You may well ask but if you do then you probably won’t enjoy it anyway. There is a loose subplot. Petra Massey wants a West End run and to play the off-stage Ophelia, Stephan Kreiss fancies Petra, Aitor Basauri wants to be a famous Shakespearean actor and Toby Park wants us all to see the deep and underlying importance of mortality on stage. But the main task is those deaths and they get to it with aplomb using all sorts of techniques through puppetry through bloody slapstick through song and dance routines and of course some of that wonderful verse and prose.

Tim Crouch as well as being a leading light behind the whole idea directs with panache and manages to bring out the talent of the group for playing farce one moment and tragedy the next and every now and then giving some sensitive readings of the poetry. Lucy Bradridge’s designs are very clever and Toby Park’s music is uncannily apposite. Don’t be back late from the interval and miss the fly to music.

There is no necessity for an encyclopaedic knowledge of Shakespeare although a passing acquaintance with Titus Andronicus would be interesting. It is clever but it is silly and you could hate it. There must be a number of last night’s audience still debating whether they have just seen a load of rubbish or a modern masterpiece.

Runs until 18 February 2017 | Image: Contributed

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