In August of 1981 a few young performers set out to create a half-hour version of Hamlet for the Novato California Renaissance Pleasure Faire. In the originator Daniel Singer’s own words: “the result was far more comical than I had originally planned. Our venue was hot, dusty, noisy, and full of distractions.
Holding an audience’s attention was unusually challenging. Drunken hecklers, intrusive parades, and backstage confusion forced us to improvise bits . . . which constantly improved as our schtick evolved.”
These conditions are reminiscent of what many scholars imagine the young William Shakespeare himself would have faced traveling through Renaissance England and later in his own Globe Theatre on the South Bank of London.
From these challenging circumstances came two performances, 400 years and an ocean apart, that share timeless comedic elements: actor to audience interaction, limited use of scenery, contemporary allusions and, of course cross-dressing.
Since its inception during the 1980s, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) has been seen on stages across the world, with a decade-long run on London’s West End. The script is reworked and redeveloped at every one of its productions, thereby remaining uniquely contemporary and delightful to every one of its audiences.