By Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
Directed by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
Company: The Reduced Shakespeare Company
Venue: The Hawth, Crawley
Date: Thursday 12th July 2012
This was another fun offering by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. In just under two hours they took us across all seven continents, through eons of time, and mentioned a great number of the many and varied sports played by people on this planet. Of course they missed a few, but then it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that matters. And they rounded it all off with an Olympish (to avoid trade name disputes with the IOC) finish. Excellent.
The writers and directors were joined by Matt Rippy, and they presented the show in the guise of three American sports analysts; the one who’s played at a reasonably high level but can’t string a coherent sentence together, the intellectual one who knows all sorts of facts about various obscure sports and players (snore), and the eye candy. (Hey, this was their descriptions, don’t blame me.) The back curtain had RSCSN (Reduced Shakespeare Company Sports Network) across it plus several sporting pictures and two doorways. That was pretty much it for the set, although they did have a rope timeline – went all the way from ‘then’ to ‘now’ – and a whiteboard with the various sporting categories on it in rather small letters. The auditorium wasn’t packed tonight (a wet Thursday in Crawley – what do you expect?) but they still managed to spot some sporting stars in the audience; Sue Barker, an American chap I didn’t recognise, and Rasputin. (Rasputin?)
I can’t possibly go through their material in order, so here are the highlights. They took a little time to establish a cricket joke which involved one or other of them falling asleep whenever the word ‘cricket’ was used. Fortunately they know their audience, and the punchline for that sketch involved baseball. A later joke about democracy didn’t fly, and while they tried to help it back into the nest they seemed to lose their way a bit, but made a good recovery. That sketch was poking fun at the clichés used by coaches, but being American we didn’t get any ‘sick as a parrot’ or ‘over the moon’ references. Mind you, an early reference to John Terry as a Neanderthal went down well.
The Australian section involved Matt lying on his back doing an upside down report from the antipodes; I couldn’t hear that bit very well, but the ‘Scottish’ accents for the golfing sketch came across loud and clear. Matt did quite a good Sean Connery, and all was forgiven. The audience participation came in two parts, with a chap near us picked for the urine test section. He did pretty well, even though they were taking the piss in a very literal way! Then three others were selected to join in for the parade of nationalities in funny hats routine, which developed into a bull chasing sequence (it’s complicated). They all did very well, and we happy few (i.e. the audience still in our seats) clapped loudly as they left the stage.
Speaking of ‘we happy few’, there were some rousing sports songs which just happened to fit together nicely for a trio (wasn’t that lucky, as they’d just made them up on the spot!). Of course, danger was never far away when demonstrating so many physical activities, but they were mostly uninjured, or at any rate still able to walk at the end. True, Reed did have sharp objects stuck into him to show how unpleasant bull fighting is, and Austin lost an arm during a vigorous scuffle, but they stitched it back on at Crawley hospital, so no harm done.
The show was divided into four quarters, indicated by the horn sound. One time out was taken for a word from the sponsor, Wetherspoons as I recall. Fortunately their cavalier approach to sponsorship meant that the advert could be more accurate than usual, which we all enjoyed very much. And given their founding mission, it wasn’t too surprising that they included a guide to Shakespearean sporting references.
The pressure mounted in the third quarter as the pinnacle of sporting achievement loomed ever larger on the horizon. They intended to cover all thirty-two(?) sports of the Olympish Games, and of course they were going for a world record time. Would they make it? Would Matt get over his daddy issues to join in? Would Austin’s arm be sewn back on in time? You betcha. These guys are pros. With some slow-motion running and a marvellous demonstration of synchronised drowning, the sporting abridgement event of the decade was finally complete. The only thing remaining was the plug of their London season and then the victory song. Hoo-rah!
© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me