William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)

Reduced Shakespeare Company

Gilded Balloon Teviot

From 03 August 2017 to 28 August 2017

Rating: ****

Review by Georgina Wells

The Reduced Shakespeare Company returns to the Fringe with its tried and tested formula of three performers playing multiple parts across daft, quick fire scenes that last just long enough to cover a change of wig.

This time, the company is enacting Shakespeare's long-lost first play, which combines all of his familiar plots in over 100 hours of performance. They cut the work—found buried under a car park in Leicester—down to an hour, focussing on a feud between Puck and Ariel. The spirits spread mischief by mixing up Shakespeare's worlds—Cleopatra falls for Bottom, Richard III falls in love with a woman disguised as a man and King Lear's daughters are the three witches from Macbeth.

The script cleverly weaves together multiple works, putting dialogue in different characters' mouths and touching on the most iconic moments. Modern references find their way in, as do terrible puns—the discovered manuscript is referred to as a "faux-lio."

After much feuding, confusion and a storm at sea—which sees audience members shooting the cast with water pistols—order is restored by a deus ex machina appearance from the bard himself.

There is less of the hallmark audience interaction in William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged) than in the company's other shows, which is a shame. It's also disappointing to see that there are still no female performers in the line up—while drag is one of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's signature features, they certainly aren't reliant on it as the only source of humour.

Overall, though, this is a slickly executed, enjoyable comedy that is also a fitting and affectionate tribute to the bard, written as it was for the 400th anniversary of his death.