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Of jollity and juvenilia

Unifaun Theatre opens its season with a ribald performance of lofty aspirations

James Ryder and Nathan Brimmer as the Weird Sisters in William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play. Photos: Christine Muscat Azzopardi

James Ryder and Nathan Brimmer as the Weird Sisters in William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play. Photos: Christine Muscat Azzopardi

Theatre
William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)
St James Cavalier

There is nothing more pleasing to an audience than a show which they can both identify with and feel comfortable making fun of. The Reduced Shakespeare Company is most adept at producing this type of work, with Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor’s script of William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) currently being staged by Unifaun Theatre at St James Cavalier.

This latest offering shows us the Bard as we have never seen or heard him before, with three zany actors, Nathan Brimmer, Joseph Zammit and James Ryder attempting to put up the premier performance of Shakespeare’s first play, conveniently found in a pot hole in a nondescript parking lot and comprising a cast list of every single character he has ever created. These characters are all bound together in a voluminous and ridiculously convoluted script which has them interacting intertextually in ways which are surprising to say the least.

The premise is thus, already remarkably and self-consciously silly in and of itself, but when you add the ridiculous interactions between the whacky band of actors who break the fourth wall as a matter of course and argue, tease, comment and wind each other up, then comic mayhem is guaranteed.

This piece was a feat of coming timing, stage dynamics and very quick changes and cross-dressing

Director Chris Gatt, who was also in charge of lighting design, marshalled the indomitable trio from one climatic scene to another, where lines from tragedy blended with comedy and trans-mediatic references from film and song lyrics somehow infiltrated the rivalry between two of Shakespeare’s best known magical characters, Puck and Ariel – who manipulate some of his most memorable and iconic characters into situations which go beyond problem plays and comedies of errors.

With three actors playing multiple characters, this piece was a feat of comic timing, stage dynamics and very quick changes and cross-dressing.

With costume design and wardrobe in the hands of Laura Bonnici, the trio were set to run their rollicking ride through a blend of famous speeches peppered with hilarious Disney references, as they broke in and out of characters with enviable ease.

Ryder’s clarity at times suffered slightly due to the breathless nature of his antics but he made up for it with his incredibly plastic facial expressions.

Brimmer’s strong voice and energy resounded across the small stage, reflecting the big characters he played and the even larger personality and attitude that his actor-persona had. Zammit matched the other two in energy and timing, delivering his witty lines with ease.

While the performance’s pace never faltered, I did find it to be a tad long, in spite of its “abridged” nature. It was certainly a tour de force of simply clever original lines blended seamlessly with Shakespearean verse, poking fun at the seriousness of thespian endeavours and making the Bard, who also made a guest appearance in a very self-reflexive and fantastical scene; as bawdy as his best comedic characters.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play was an entertaining and incredibly fun to watch performance, which added a bit of unexpected audience participation for good measure. It was well cast and well executed. Definitely one to watch and enjoy.

William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play is being staged at St James Cavalier today, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, and on October 29-22 at 8pm. For tickets, log on to www.kreattivita.org.

Joseph Zammit, James Ryder and Nathan Brimmer on discovering the foglio of the Shakespeare play.Joseph Zammit, James Ryder and Nathan Brimmer on discovering the foglio of the Shakespeare play.

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