The Project

All Complete Works

What Is Complete Works: Table Top SHAKESPEARE?

A salt and pepper pot for the king and queen. A vase for the prince. A matchbox for the servant. A toilet roll tube for the Innkeeper. A water bottle for the messenger.

In Complete Works six performers create condensed versions of all of the Shakespeare plays, comically and intimately retelling them, using a collection of everyday objects as stand-ins for the characters on the one metre stage of an ordinary table top. Over nine days we recreate and retell all 36 of Shakespeare’s famous plays, from Hamlet to Macbeth with everything in between. Replacing the actors for everyday objects we narrate each story on a two by one metre table top.

Complete Works explores the dynamic force of narrative in a simple summary of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, histories and late plays, creating worlds as vivid as they are strange.

Forced Entertainment have long had an obsession with virtual or described performance, exploring in different ways over the years the possibilities of conjuring extraordinary scenes, images and stories using language alone. In a brand new direction for the group, Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare explores the dynamic force of narrative in relation to Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, histories and late plays. What follows is simple and idiosyncratic, absurd and strangely compelling as, through a kind of lo-fi, home-made puppetry, the stories of the plays really do come to life in vivid miniature.

Forced Entertainment’s Complete Works is the first time the company have approached dramatic literature and the Shakespearean legacy. The result is a kind of levelling of the plays – a gently comic re-casting of them via objects from the kitchen cabinet and grocery store shelves – as well as a celebration of their power as stories, and the act of storytelling and theatre itself.

First presented to live audience as well as live-streamed at Berliner Festspiele – Foreign Affairs Festival, Berlin in the summer of 2015, Complete Works has toured around the world, appearing in several Shakespeare festivals over the following years, as well as being webcast to thousands of international viewers around.

During the global pandemic of 2020, forcing the shut down of stages everywhere, the piece finds an intimate new life by ‘coming home’. Rather than a table set against the red drapes of a theatre, the objects find their starting positions on Terry’s kitchen table or Jerry’s desk as if they’d just been taken down from the surrounding shelves and cupboards of each performers’ home. The ‘At Home’ Edition was created and presented as a ‘live event’ from this website over the summer and autumn of 2020.

Director Tim Etchells
Devised and performed by Robin Arthur, Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden and Terry O’Connor
Text Robin Arthur, Tim Etchells, Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon, Claire Marshall, Cathy Naden and Terry O’Connor
Design Richard Lowdon
Sound & Lighting Design Jim Harrison
Production Management Jim Harrison

Additional Performer Nicki Hobday

Complete Works is a Forced Entertainment production. Co-produced by Berliner Festspiele – Foreign Affairs Festival Berlin and Theaterfestival Basel. Touring of the Complete Works project in 2016 was kindly supported by the British Council

Complete Works At Home was financially supported by: Kanuti Gildi SAAL (Estonia); KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen (Germany); Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Germany); The Mondavi Center, UC Davis (USA); PACT Zollverein (Germany); Romaeuropa Festival (Italy); Shakespeare Festival Neuss (Germany); Stanford Live at Stanford University (USA); UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (USA) and UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures (USA). Also presented as part of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s 2020 Time-Based Art Festival (USA) and Temporada Alta 2020 (Spain).

Thanks to the Royal Shakespeare Company which commissioned Be Stone No More by Tim Etchells in 2012 for the World Shakespeare Festival – an early, development version of this project, as well as to the people who participated in that phase of the work