No word of encouragement or discouragement from this reviewer will make any difference to fans of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. No doubt they'll rush to see this opus from the over-aged transatlantic adolescents and will succumb to their particular and rather eccentric charms. Last year, I enthusiastically reviewed the upteenth tour of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) and was delighted to do so.

Unfortunately, The Bible abridgement is not in the same league. What could (and maybe should) have offended some sensibilities is so bland and benign as to be pointless.

The writers - Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor - have hit upon a formula which seems to be one size fits all. Yet, on this occasion, the resulting show display no real structure to the show, short of a series of sketches based upon Bible stories. Whereas the Shakespeare show combined juvenile behaviour with real insight and rapier sharp wit, the God offering is no more than bargain basement humour which would disgrace the Cambridge Footlights, let alone professional theatre.

Comparisons are always invidious but can't be helped here. Where, in the company's Shakespeare show, much of the second half (which involves audience participation - of course!) was devoted to a satirical deconstruction of Hamlet in the light of post-Freudian character examination, in this piece we are treated to a sing-a-long of "Old Man Noah Had an Ark". Maybe that says it all!

Unlike Shakespeare, there simply is no basic premise for this show, and what passes for satire could easily (and may have been) scribbled on the back of a fag packet after a few drinks at the local curry house.

Old jokes abound (eg The Ten Commandments - the good news and the bad news) to the extent that you feel you'd have done better to stay home with a video of Monty Python's Life of Brian. Two or three musical numbers enliven the proceedings somewhat, although "Begattin" seems to be curiously similar to a number - "The Begat" - from Finian's Rainbow.

The performers on this tour - Simon Jermond, Norman Naudin and Michael O'Connor - jest around competently enough, although even they seem to appreciate the inadequacy of the material. Under Adam Long's direction, they jump about frenetically, in and out of costume changes, but to little avail. There also seems to be a curious lack of empathy between the three - as a result, their stage personality clashes do not convince.

Yes, I laughed, but not hard enough or long enough. If you enjoyed (and are old enough to remember) The Goodies on television, this show might provide a mildly amusing evening. And The Bible does have the merit of brevity - the whole farrago being over in ninety minutes. I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief.

- Stephen Gilchrist (reviewed at Brighton's Theatre Royal)