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by Anthony Neilson

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Tebut Isfar

ta ' Clare Azzopardi





Title:  William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)

Authors:  Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor

Direction:  Chris Gatt

Cast:   Nathan Brimmer, Joseph Zammit, James Ryder

Costume Design:   Laura Bonnici

Lighting Design:   Chris Gatt

Graphic Design:   Mikhail Basmadjian

Stage Management:   Rachel Zammit

Technical Management:   Stefan Scerri

In this strange-yet-familiar narrative, an ancient grudge pits Puck (from Midsummer) against Ariel (from The Tempest) and turns Shakespeare’s canon upside-down, creating such strange bedfellows as Hamlet and that master motivator Lady Macbeth, Viola and Richard III, King Lear and the Weird Sisters, and (of course) Dromio and Juliet. Using questionable scholarship and street-performer smarts, playwrights Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor weave together most of the famous speeches and plot devices of Shakespeare’s thirty-nine plays to create a fast, funny, and fictional fortieth, filled with witty wordplay and vaudevillian variety.

by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd.



What the Papers Said


Of jollity and juvenilia

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

 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.

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.

Andre Delicata, The Times of Malta, 12/10/2017




A witty mash-up

The Reduced Shakespeare’s Company (wittily referred to as RSC) rose to prominence and international acclaim with their side-splitting debut show titled The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).

The three-man comedy troupe followed that up with The Complete History of America (abridged) and The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged). They now return to the Bard with an abridged version of his Long Lost First Play, allegedly discovered as a manuscript in a parking lot in Leicester, England.

The story goes that the play was written by a 17-year-old William Shakespeare and contains all the characters and speeches that would eventually find their way into individual plays. It is, therefore, a play that would need over a 100 hours to perform and contains multiple unwieldy storylines. As an act of great public service, the three actors offer to perform the world premiere of this ‘lost masterpiece’ in abridged form over approximately 90 minutes.

Playwrights Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor throw in many of the famous speeches and plot devices of Shakespeare’s plays into the mix. Those familiar with their original attempt to condense Shakespeare’s 39 plays into a single show are likely to feel that this is little more than a clever way of rehashing the same idea. In this ‘new’ narrative we find the familiar fairy from Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck (Joseph Zammit) and the sprite from The Tempest, Ariel (James Ryder) trying to outdo each other in a series of scenes that throw together Hamlet and Lady Macbeth, Viola (from Twelfth Night) and Richard III, King Lear and the Weird Sisters (from Macbeth) and Dromio (from the Comedy of Errors) and Juliet. They are aided and abetted in their desecration of these hallowed characters by a third actor (Nathan Brimmer) and, together, play multiple roles in a fast changing, often side-splitting funny and witty show.

Due to its improvisational nature, the staging is kept extremely simple. Yet, the show would not be successful without a very able backstage that allows for the actors to change into roles in a split second to keep up with the breakneck speed of the show. It was good to see the actors acknowledging them at the curtain call.

The show is directed by Chris Gatt in a strong vaudevillian style, with some excellent musical numbers thrown in for good measure. An element of audience participation, as well as a number of local references, even gave the show a panto feel. All three actors played the various roles with great comic skill and gusto with Zammit and Brimmer excelling in their comic delivery of Shakespeare’s verse.

Watching this show is very much akin to hearing a musical mash-up by your favourite cut-up artist. The fun comes from seeing the actors sample familiar snippets from Shakespeare’s text and dropping it in the most unlikely context. The text is filled with puns aplenty, that are bound to excite those familiar with Shakespeare’s work much more than the uninitiated. Whatever the case may be, however, you will never be able to watch another Disney film without thinking of Shakespeare!

-Jes Camilleri, The Sunday Times of Malta, 15/10/2017 





Image Gallery (pics by Christine Muscat Azzopardi)