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The Bard with minimal fuss

Whether you are on old hand with Shakespeare’s plays or after an alternative interpretation of his greatest works  – “Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare” is something for you.

By Lya Pfäffli

Watching a Shakespeare play can be a bit overwhelming. Some struggle with the complexity of the Bard’s plays – whether it is the tragically doomed love story of Romeo and Juliet or the haunting vision of King Lear’s mental collapse. Others find the language difficult to follow or the scene changes confusing, even though they love the idea of fairies saving mortals in Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A solution is at hand, in form of the “Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare.” It may sound daunting to have all 36 plays staged on a tabletop while using everyday objects to act out epic and grandiose scenes of love, hate, power struggles, jealousy, rivalry, bloodshed and death. But the complexity is reduced, the language modernised (and dare we say it: simplified). And this is also something for those old hands of Shakespeare’s plays or for those who are after an alternative interpretation of his greatest works – including those courageous enough to want to watch all of the Bard’s plays back-to-back, one after another over the course of nine days.

Under the artistic direction of Tim Etchells, winner of the prestigious 2016 Ibsen Award for contributions to theatre, each of the 36 plays have been abridged into bitesize chunks of no more than 60 minutes – maximum impact with minimal fuss. Presented by Forced Entertainment, an experimental theatre company from Sheffield, England, this groundbreaking and genre-defying production is put together by a group of six artists who define themselves as “interested in making performances that excite, challenge, question and entertain”.

The set-up is unconventional and intimate, the table top draws the audience close and commands full attention so as to not miss a trick.  The prospect of King Lear as a ketchup bottle and Othello as a salt cellar is hard to conceive but it is part and parcel of the theatre company’s aim: “we’re interested in confusion as well as laughter.”

All the dramatis personae in this production of all of Shakespeare’s plays

Opening on Thursday 1 September as one of 20 productions on offer at Basel’s annual Theatre Festival, the plays will be presented at the Junges Theater in Kaserne over the course of nine days at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm and 9pm daily. Tying in with Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary and the subsequent global celebrations of this great playwright, there will be a live stream of each play supported by the British Council as well as ongoing activity on the event’s respective Facebook and Twitter pages.


Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare
45-60 min per play, in English
Tickets: CHF 25/15
Post show talk on 2 September

Running Order
Thursday 1 September
6pm Coriolanus
7pm King John
8pm Love’s Labour’s Lost
9pm Macbeth

Friday 2 September
6pm Pericles
7pm Richard II
8pm All’s Well That Ends Well
9pm King Lear

Saturday 3 September
6pm Much Ado About Nothing
7pm Henry IV (Part1)
8pm The Comedy of Errors
9pm  Antony and Cleopatra

Sunday 4 September
6pm Measure for Measure
7pm Henry IV (Part 2)
8pm The Merry Wives of Windsor
9pm Taming of the Shrew

Monday 5 September
6pm Julius Caesar
7pm Henry V
8pm Troilus and Cressida
9pm Hamlet

Tuesday 6 September
6pm Twelfth Night
7pm Henry VI (Part 1)
8pm The Merchant of Venice
9pm Titus Andronicus

Wednesday 7 September
6pm Romeo and Juliet
7pm Henry VI (Part 2)
8pm Two Gentlemen of Verona
9pm As You Like It

Thursday 8 September
6pm Cymbeline
7pm Henry VI (Part 3)
8pm A Midsummer Night’s Dream
9pm The Winter’s Tale

Friday 9 September
6pm Othello
7pm Richard III
8pm Timon of Athens
9pm The Tempest


( all pictures © 2016 Theaterfestival)

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