The Reduced Shakespeare Company
(Touring Production)
Where have these guys been all my life?

That's the question I've been asking myself ever since I got caught up in the comedy whirlwind that is 'The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)'.

Having never witnessed the irrepressible Reduced Shakespeare Company in action before, I didn't really have a clue what to expect when a friend offered me a spare ticket to their show in Bradford.

But after sitting through a madcap comedy romp that left the audience fawning for more, I admit to being hooked. It may be a cliché, but by the end of the performance my jaw really did ache from repeated hooting laughter.

'The Bible', which is currently winging its way around the UK on a massive tour, draws upon the same formula used in the RSC's most famous production - 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)'. That is, to relay a series of long and complex stories in double quick time and with maximum strength humour and hilarity.

And by God (pun very much intended), how they manage it.

Granted, some of the gags are so corny and obvious they were surely stolen from a dressing room at Butlins. But the three performers? enthusiastic, live-wire ultra-adolescent humour and 'end of the pier' visual gags are just far too funny to resist.

One is tempted say 'The Bible' will appeal largely to fans of Monty Python, which has obviously been a huge influence on the writers. But when I caught up with the tour at St George's Hall, the audience was refreshingly diverse, ranging from teenagers to the rather more stately.

Using a team of three writers also appears to have been a master touch, as different sections of the audience were clearly tickled by the subtle variations in comedy style. Personally, Abraham's one-on-one chat with God really did it for me, making excruciatingly funny use of facial expressions and comedy pauses. I can't really say anymore without spoiling it for future audiences.

Although the show contains occasional dabs of cutting, razor-sharp religious observations and wit, the whole thing is best summed up as a high-octane pantomime for grown-ups. It even includes a group sing-along, and those who cringe at the mere thought of being dragged up on stage should avoid booking front row seats!

In terms of criticisms, only a few things spring to mind. The first would be the best gags were used up in the first half, and the performers struggled to reach the same heights of hilarity after the interval. And although I feel the length of the production was spot on - a mere 90 minutes - the second half did seem to finish rather abruptly, with just a hint that the writers were dying to finish the script and get down the pub.

Another slight gripe is that some of the material presented was rather too unoriginal, with one skit seemingly lifted straight from the TV series 'The Fast Show'. Certain one-liners, which were obviously adapted every night to fit the location, also clunked rather nosily around the venue.

But when all said and done, I laughed and laughed, and left the venue with an inane grin smeared across my face, the best sketches still running through my mind.

Thank God for the Reduced Shakespeare Company.

Copyright J A Waddington 2002. For syndication rights, please email.
Venue: St George's Hall, Bradford
19th February 2002
Rating:  4 / 5
Reviewed by: Alex Waddington
Stuff to buy

The Reduced Shakespeare Company VHS

The Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas
Audio Cassette

Reduced Shakespeare Company
Audio CD

The Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas
Audio CD

The Reduced Shakespeare Company Radio Show
Audio Cassette

The Reduced Shakespeare Company : Radio Show (Vol 1)
Audio Cassette

Complete Millenium Musical CD  


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