The Bible: The Complete Word of God is the Reduced Shakespeare Company s third show playing simultaneously in the West End. As the title suggests, this play tackles the holy book itself in a typically irreverent manner. Just as in the company s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) and The Complete History of America (abridged), the voluminous material is compressed into a frenzied two acts and presented in mad-capped, high-octane style.
Faint-hearted Christians be warned - this play is not for you. The programme even carries a health warning 'for people with heart ailments, back problems, theology degrees, inner ear disorders and / or people inclined to motion sickness'.
If you can imagine three flamboyant, American actors (Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor and Matt Rippy) armed with a keyboard, a model of Noah s ark, a water pistol, some funky 70 s music, a few tamed flames and some boisterous audience participation - and, well, you re getting the idea.
The Bible: The Complete Word of God is seriously funny. You don t have to know anything about the Bible to enjoy it and you probably won t be any more enlightened when you come out. But you will be reeling from fast, roller-coaster comedy which turns the audience into captive, fun park passengers.
This play reads between the lines of the good book in the hope that, by telling you what didn t happen, you get an inkling of what did - though it s a seriously tongue in cheek retelling, embellished by some humourous anachronisms. Playing by these rules, the sketch on the Ten Commandments becomes a recitation of the commandments that were thrown out. In these uncensored cast-outs, performed like the BBC s ‘Top of the Pops , even the Spice Girls get a mention! The story of Moses and the parting of the water takes the form of a game of golf between God, Jesus and Tiger Woods, and Jesus miracles turns into a three man magic show.
The company are also not too bothered about biblical chronology. In fact, the main recurring theme is the story of Noah s ark which pops up briefly every 15 minutes throughout the play, culminating with a highly participative grand finale. Pity the poor fools who land the role of the trout! You ll see nothing like that in the official version of either testament.
If you like exciting comedy, are willing to join in and can stand the aching stomach muscles, this show is a must. But be warned, if you suffer from stage-fright, aquaphobia or tardiness, don t get seats near the front.
The Bible: The Complete Word of God closes at London's Gielgud Theatre in London on 11 October 1997 before a national tour.
Ed Whiting, August 1997