The Reduced Shakespeare Company has a high standing in the British Comedy scene. Starting out in 1987 back in the USA, it has enjoyed international recognition and acclaim. They have the unofficial title of “the best abridgers in the world”, and they have the track record to prove it. The Bible, all the great works of literature, Christmas, the history of America and of course the entire works of Bill Shakespeare have all undergone the abridgment process. Their ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’ (Abridged) holds the record for the longest running comedy in the West End. They have taken the Edinburgh Festival by storm on several occasions, they have been on our TV screen with Channel 4, had a radio programmes on the BBC World Service and have had countless sell out shows. That is why they have absolutely no excuse for bringing a show to the UK which focused on American sporting culture, was littered with pop culture which left a British audience cold and confused, and INSULTEDCRICKET! IN YORKSHIRE! Brave.
The last criticism is obviously to be taken in jest, (sort of), but the others are sadly true. In their journey across 7 continents worth of sporting history and culture, the trio give a disproportionate amount of focus to the North American sports. Long sketches concerning NFL and Baseball players, team names and coaching techniques were not wholly well received by the audience and at certain points they were lost completely. The worst case was when they referenced American Football players at College skipping class. There were a few titters from the audience, but the poor reception clearly threw the company as they were expecting a much bigger response, pausing briefly for a laugh that did not come. But that is to be expected when very few British would immediately recognise when the quirks of American College Football. I spent some time studying at an American University, and was sitting with a good Yanky friend of mine through the entire show but there were pop culture references that even we had to work to get.
Now, I will urge you not to read the above paragraphs and conclude that the The Complete World Of Sports (Abridged) is not a good show. I have been a fan of the RSC (no relation) for years. They are masters of clowning. Their shows are always slick, with the action and ‘funnies’ stacking up on stage in a barrage. The creativity and talent of the company is clear. These chaps are the veterans, leaders in their field. They marry clever references and well researched observation with often wonderfully crass slapstick humour. It is for this reason that it is so hard to forgive their mistake in mismatching the content with the audience.
Apparently the show I saw had already been adapted for a British audience and their sketch on Rugby and odd British sports were well put together. But they do nothing on Cricket and barely do anything on football, focusing on the American interpretation of Soccer. The brevity of their sketches on these unique British sports would be forgivable if it were not for the fact they spent so long discussing Baseball and American Football. Nevertheless, York was their European premier and judging from their other works and the high versatility of the cast, I am sure that they are astute enough to know that The Complete World Of Sports (Abridged) needs a tad more Anglicising. I wish them luck and would still heartily recommend them to anyone who has liked their other works or just wants to watch contemporary clowning at its best.
For information about their mammoth British Tour, see here.