Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Complete World of Sports (Abridged)

RSCCompleteWorldOfSportsWHAT: The Complete World of Sports (Abridged)
WHO:
Reduced Shakespeare Company
WHERE: Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham
WHEN: 23 June 2012

The “bad boys of abridgement” are back in the UK following a highly successful run in New York and a sell-out US tour of The Complete World of Sports (abridged). In this exclusive tour ahead of the show’s West End premiere, the entire history of athletic competition is revisited in a marathon of madness and mayhem that sees the world’s great sporting events shrunk down to theatrical size.

Among the many questions answered: Is darts really a sport? What does NASCAR stand for? Why do Americans insist on calling a contest in which only they compete the “World Series”? What about wife carrying, extreme ironing and bog snorkelling? Which is more boring – baseball or cricket? Who invented curling and synchronised swimming – and why are they in the Olympics?

Whether it’s the ancient cavemen or the Classical Greeks, the Romans, the Elizabethans or the modern sports media, The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) brings you all the emotion, the drama and the random drug testing of sports …

Every sport ever played on every continent in the entire history of the world in under two hours! Let the games begin!

This is the sort of thing we wouldn’t really look twice at in “what’s on” brochures, because … well, it says “sports” on it, and neither of us are big on that – me in particular. We did unexpectedly come into tickets for this show, and went to the Playhouse not really knowing what to expect. The description (above) indicates comedy, in a sort of Horrible Histories type way perhaps, but … sports? Really? With my reputation?

Don’t let the sports tag put you off, however, because these guys are absolutely brilliant.

If you love sports, you’ll enjoy this show. If you don’t love sports, you’ll enjoy it even more. They’ve taken all the sports you can think of (including Quidditch!) and some you probably can’t (extreme ironing, wth?) and mixed them up in an energetic race against time, and it’s hilarious. That’s why it’s such a shame that the theatre wasn’t more than maybe half-full, which the three performers (Austin Tichenor, Matt Rippy, and Reed Martin), with tongue properly in cheek, remarked on.

Maybe it’s because of the description, because yes, we would’ve glanced at it and said “nah, not for us” and then we would have missed a couple of hours of laughter. The Reduced Shakespeare Company made us all laugh heartily, often. If you count laughs per minute, it’s a fair estimate that we laughed more watching this than The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live!, and that was one genuinely funny show. So don’t let the whole “sports” thing put you off. I couldn’t care less about sports, and I was laughing as much as anything.

Even though the three performers are from across the pond, and the joke about creationism vs evolution fell a little flat on a secular UK audience, they had adapted the material very well for the UK market, and had made an effort to make it regional as well. There were nods to the East Midlands in general and Nottingham in particular, which was brilliant, because it made the performance more special than if it had just been generic UK material.

They had other ways of interacting with the audience too – they went down to say hello and pick out “celebrities”. Later on, they also went down to fetch a few audience members to help them on stage, and at both times, you could sense a distinct “THIS IS AWKWARD” from the audience, who seemed to sort of freeze in place and hoping they’d pick someone else. Still, the ones that were picked were very good sports and seemed to enjoy themselves.

Neither of us can fault this show. The material was well-written and the performances outstanding – you can tell they are professionals who have done this for a long time and know how to play an audience and what to do if they forget their place in the script. The only downside might be that it’s about sports, which doesn’t appeal to everyone (then again, we’re proof that it’s a great show regardless), but as far as we’re concerned, if these guys ever come back to Nottingham with another show, regardless of the theme, we’re getting tickets. Well worth watching.

Another good thing was that afterwards, they stayed and signed programmes in the lobby. I didn’t get one, but I think it’s a lovely thing to do. They also plugged their website and Twitter account (see below) and mentioned they do podcasts. There’s also an email list, which is apparently the best one in the world because they “never send you anything”. Can’t argue with that!

The bald guy, the skinny guy and the guy who looks a lot like Will Ferrell have definitely got a couple of new fans. Well done, sirs!

4.5 out of 5 synchronised swimmers. Would’ve probably been higher with a subject closer to our hearts than sports.

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