ComedyPhysical TheatreReviewShakespeareShakespeare 400South West

The Complete Deaths – Hall for Cornwall, Truro

Writer: William Shakespeare
Adaptor and Director: Tim Crouch
Reviewer: Jess Rowe

Ill-fitting the 400th anniversary of the decease of England’s greatest playwright; SpyMonkey, renowned for their physical comedy, have devised their own absurd creation inspired by the Bard’s famous narratives. Bringing together the ‘complete’ number (75) of onstage deaths, so no Lady Macbeth I’m afraid, deaths range from the bloodbath featured in Macbeth to the meta-theatre characters such as Pyramus and Thisbe within A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The collaboration between this team of clowns and an experimentalist director is somewhat interesting, creating a piece full of disorder and slapstick comedy that takes the work of Shakespeare to a new level.

SpyMonkey’s imaginative styles, used to portray each death through using media such as live recording, puppetry and choreography, is clever and deserves applause. However, the production as a whole does not triumph as successfully as I initially went in hoping, and my own personal death of disappointment was reached during a techno-styled musical number featuring a video comparing Shakespeare to Hitler… ‘Sh*tler’. It is unclear what point, if any, the production is trying to get across with this portrayal as it is certainly not fitted to educate audiences upon Shakespeare as most of the clever elements of the production come from references from the allocated plays. It also blurs any form of the political message with actor Toby Park expressing, rather ironically and uncomfortably, a serious note to the piece, trying to make the audience relate the problems of the piece to the political problems of the Middle East. The contrast of his arrogant interaction with the audience and the farce vibe from the other three make a conflicting company with different intentions, causing the comical disorder to be stronger; nonetheless, still making the sole purpose blurred from the eyes of the audience.

Admittedly, the second act brings back some life. During Arthur’s death, featured in King John, the company of four alongside stage manager Andy McCabe create a beautiful five-part harmony musical number emphasising the main theme of the evening- death. This makes the audience realise the talent of the performers on stage that has not been shown off enough in the show.

The variation of extremes in costumes keeps the piece intriguing, varying from a full Shakespearean outfit and codpiece to lacking any clothes or dignity, and once again with little purpose to any intentions of the piece.

It is hard to work out who this production is best suited for, as the maturity of the humour sinks to that of a child but its vulgarity and explicitness begs for children not to attend. This may be a year fully celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare, but this production is anything but a tribute to his work… more so of an insult.

Runs until 1 June 2016 as part of a UK Tour | Image: Contributed

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