With perfect timing the Reduced Shakespeare Company bring their new show to the UK. In The Complete World of Sports they shrink great competitive events down to theatrical size summarising nine types of sport across seven continents.
The structure of the show is similar to past productions with the second half concentrating on a particular event the Olympics (re-titledThe Olympish to avoid legal action for breach of trademark) are reduced from 16 days to 16 minutes. If only, eh?
The increasingly ludicrous nature of modern sports becomes apparent as the show progresses. The Company tie themselves in knots trying to work out the difference between a Sport and a Game and outline a series of sports so outlandish that the inclusion of Quidditch goes unnoticed. Sometimes they are defeated by the sheer dullness of the sport. The only way to avoid inducing sleep when discussing cricket is to set the sport in the context of a science fiction storyline.
The RSC invoke the atmosphere of sporting events leading the audience through a breathless version of the National Anthem and securing volunteers to form a parade. They develop their own Reduced Fight Song. Should you be inclined to look there is an element of social comment as the Company debate whether or not blood sports like bull fighting are really painless and refer to the introduction of new sports such as waterboarding. The original production of the Company is referenced in the sports report from Elizabethan era - Ophelia failed her swimming trial.
The current incarnation of the RSC is co-writers and directors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor with Matt Rippy. They seem to be enjoying themselves just as much as the highly appreciative audience. There are excellent ad libs springing from their merciless parody of a half-time pep talk bringing to light the meaningless gibberish that comes out on such occasions. Rippy is teased so much about his hopeless Scots accent he just gives up and impersonates Sean Connery.
Not content with mocking real sports the Company also pokes fun at fictional ones. In a superb sequence they recreate the clinches from pretty much every sports movie ever made. Although the humour is largely verbal there is the occasional visual gem such as the horrendous fashion sense of golf players, an Australian sports report read upside down and a high dive that really makes you jump.
The RSC conclude the show by appealing to people who enjoyed the show to tell both their friends. Happy to oblige.