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Austin Tichenor On ... The Complete World of Sports (Abridged)

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The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a three man troupe (Matt Ripley, Austin Tichenor & Reed Martin) who tackle long serious subjects and condense them into short pieces of comic theatre. Having covered the Bible, the Bard, the movie world, and the history of America, they now set out to play ball by sending up the World of Sports. The show - The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) arrives in Buxton later this month and at the Lowry in July and we caught up with co-author and co-star Austin Tichenor to find out more.

'Reduced' as a concept has been running for some time. Why do you think it's successful as a brand?  
Oh, lots of reasons. If you’re paying good money to go to theatre, it’s got to be worth your time, which is why we only tackle the most important topics of the day. Then, we get straight to the point to give you the gist of whatever our subject matter is. We also give extremely good value for money: Where else can you laugh yourself silly at something that will also give you just enough valuable information to win pub quizzes? And finally - we’re so successful mostly because there’s no accounting for taste!

You have covered so many subjects - what have been your favourite shows to work? 
That’s like asking, “Which of your children is your favourite?” Our favourite shows are the pretty and talented ones, obviously. They’re all fun to work on for different reasons or we wouldn’t be working on them…  ...but actually, if you put a gun to my head (which I know is not something that happens very much in the UK, but in America it happens all the time so we’re used to it) I’d have to say the Sports show is my favourite. It just perfectly hits that sweet spot of smart and funny, verbal and physical, high-brow and low-brow, intelligent and really really stupid.)

Many will say that you attract new audiences to the theatre. How do you do this?  
If that’s true, it may because we’re just fun. We’re not important, we’re not good for you, you won’t learn anything, you’ll just simply have a great time. (And yes, you may actually learn something, but it won’t hit you until days or even weeks later, after you’ve stopped laughing.)

Tell us a a bit about the Complete World of Sports show and is there an Olympics theme?
Shh! Don’t say “Olympics”! The International Olympic Committee is notoriously litigious and will come after anybody they think is trying to horn in on their action and infringe on their trademark. Let me make this perfectly clear: We do NOT cover the “Olympics” (All Rights Reserved) in The Complete World of Sports (abridged). We conclude our show with something we call “The Sixteen-Minute Quadrennial Global Medal Chase and Olymp-ISH Games”. Which is, of course, totally different.

Do you have to be a sports fan to enjoy it?
As with all our shows, you don’t have to be a fan of the topic to enjoy the show. Obviously sports fans get a kick out of it (just as Shakespeare scholars love our original show) but our greatest reviews have come from critics and audiences who tell us they HATE sports -- and loved the show anyway.

Are you looking forward to the Olympics?
Of course. We love the idea of nations putting aside their differences and competing for glory on a different field of battle. (As fans of both Tolkien and Lewis, we love fantasy.) And if the televised coverage is the same in the UK as it is in the US, we’re looking forward to our favourite part: Sportcasters pontificating long-windedly about every athlete’s rise from poverty and obscurity while killing time between tape-delayed events the internet-savvy audience already knows the scores of.

What's your favourite sport?
We each have different favourites: I love basketball for its action and almost-choreographed team flow; Reed loves baseball because it’s a sport for only the truest, noblest, and highest-level of geek; and Matt loves tennis because it’s the only sport where his father never criticised his playing. We know we’ll all love soccer once they adopt the American rules of making each goal count for twenty points, be refereed by Pippa Middleton in a bikini, and allow the use of handguns. And we’re convinced we’d learn to love cricket if we only we could stay awake.

What's the funniest thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
The funniest times for us are usually when things go horribly, disastrously, hysterically WRONG. Then we have to improvise and find our way out of it. It’s not something we plan or hope for, but every now and then it happens….and in fact, the last time it happened, we actually got a recording of it. If you want, click (or cut and paste) this link and skip ahead to the 16:45 mark.

What are your plans when the run is over?  
We’ll probably hit the pub. Oh, I see what you mean -- We’ve actually written and premiered our eighth stage show The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), which concludes with a traditional English panto. Reduced, of course. Hopefully, we’ll bring that back to the UK soon.

Finally, why should people come along and see the show?  
Well, you’ve got to join in the Olympic frenzy somehow, don’t you? If you’re excited about the Olympics, come celebrate it with us. If you can’t stand the Olympics, come make fun of it with us. If you’re a fan of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, come hang out with us - we haven’t toured the UK in over four years! And if you’re not a fan, you should come see what all the fuss is about. I promise you, you’ll laugh yourself silly. If you don’t laugh yourself silly, we’ll be in the foyer after the show, you can come down and tell us why. That’s our guarantee!  If you want to hear highlights of the Sports show, you can click here (or cut and paste) and skip to the 10:20 mark. Enjoy!

Austin Tichenor was speaking to Glenn Meads

The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) is at the Buxton Opera House on 18 June and The Lowry on 8 July.


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