All’s Well That Ends Quickly - lets make Shakespeare shorter
There’s a running gag in the BBC sit-com “Upstart Crow”, where William Shakespeare is mercilessly taunted by his family about the excessive lengths of his plays.
Harry Enfield’s John Shakespeare (Bill’s dad) describes his son’s play as “timeless” by which he explains “feels like it goes on for bloody ever.”
There’s many a true word spoken in jest (as the Bard himself might have wished he’d written but didn’t) and the standard three hours plus "word-a-thon" that is your average Shakespeare drama no doubt puts a lot off stumping up the price of a ticket.
Sacrilege as this may seem to the Bardy boffins, when it comes to the Comedies and especially the Tragedies, less would defiantly be more.
More enjoyable without the interminable waffle which is mostly unintelligible to a modern audience. More funny, when it comes to the Comedies without the “look at how clever I am” references to texts which only the most geeky Elizabethan ever appreciated.
Keep the good bits - and there are some sensational pieces of writing which stir the emotions and thrill the senses as long as you can stay awake. Bin off the pages of exposition and scene setting and get to the snogging, slaughtering and skullduggery without delay.
The praise and popularity lavished on the recent ninety-minute Romeo and Juliet from the National Theatre shows that ripping out a few dozen pages doesn’t mean the play is diminished or less enjoyable.
Even local purveyors of mega length Shakespearian productions, The RSC, are recognising that something shorter is best for their new outdoor Garden Theatre in their choice of Shakespeare’s shortest comedy - Comedy Of Errors - for the company’s post Covid opener. RSC artistic director Gregory Doran is quoted by The Guardian as saying it was the ideal production for the occasion given that it was Shakespeare’s funniest and shortest play.
We’re delighted to see that local Fringe makers, Tread The Boards, are emerging from the pandemic with a Festival of cut-down Shakespeare plays later this year. Rehearsed in three days and lasting no more than ninety minutes, we’re looking forward to seeing Bill’s tomes “cut down” and
“Fringed up” - filled with irreverence at some of the Bard’s excesses but inspired by his imagination.
By the way, you can help with this Bard baiting endeavor, with a contribution to the companies Crowdfunding campaign to raise cash to cover production costs.
So it’s a big yes to smaller measures of Measure For Measure, make that pound of flesh just a few hundred grams worth and bring on All’s Well that Ends Quickly.