Tuesday, May 10, 2016

'The Complete Deaths' adapted by Tim Crouch

10 May 2016

When I last wrote here about the extraordinary theatre-maker Tim Crouch (reviewing his show 'I, Malvolio' at the Brighton Festival in May 2010) I said “take any opportunity to see what Tim Crouch does next”. He is a really interesting and unusual writer, performer and director who specialises in breaking down the fourth wall and creating entertaining, provocative and unsettling theatre. I was intrigued, therefore, to be at the Royal Theatre, Northampton, on Saturday to see the results of his new collaboration with the superb quartet of clowns that is Spymonkey (who I reviewed here in February 2012 and April 2014). Produced to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, 'The Complete Deaths' – adapted and directed by Tim Crouch and performed by Spymonkey (in a co-production with Brighton Festival and Royal & Derngate, Northampton) – re-enacts all 75 onstage deaths from Shakespeare's plays. Crouch's research into Shakespeare's deaths (23 stabbings, 12 sword fights, 5 poisonings, 12 suicides etc) is impressive. The production fuses Crouch's tendency to blur the boundaries between actor and character with Spymonkey's trademark stepping out of character to portray a company at war with itself. The use of video cameras and projection is a familiar Tim Crouch trope and Spymonkey's excellent physical slapstick is well-used. There are some very funny moments as the deaths are ticked off, with a large digital display counting them down. But I'm not sure the conceit completely worked as a show and I found my attention wandering at various points. 'The Complete Deaths' was a little too close to the Reduced Shakespeare Company's version of 'The Complete Works', with elements of the National Theatre of Brent and the self-imposed challenge aspect of Chicago's 'Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind' (30 plays in 60 minutes). But I'm still looking forward to seeing what Tim Crouch and Spymonkey do next.

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