Reduced Shakespeare Company in the Complete World of Sports (abridged)

Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
Reduced Shakespeare Company
Arts Theatre

Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin and Matt Rippy Credit: Karl Smit

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a fantastic brand. Having milked the Bard for a decade or longer, the American trio branched out into other variations on familiar themes.

Their latest incarnation is as experts on sports, which is only too appropriate in London during summer 2012. They're parasitical, parodic views on this occasion are presented under the Americanised mock auspices of the Reduced Shakespeare Company Sports Network or RSCSN.

The quick-fire formula remains the same but is even more extreme, with so many sketches that even the tweeting generation will never get bored.

The measure of success for this kind of show is not the usual for theatrical performance. Artistic aesthetics are irrelevant and for the most part, providing information or challenging the audience are equally unnecessary. What this RSC needs to guarantee is a high laughter quotient throughout their two hours on stage.

The first half easily meets this requirement, though the rate slows after the interval with the occasional impression that the guys are struggling for quite enough material to fill the time.

Even so, there is sufficient light entertainment for the kind of audiences that will fill the Arts Theatre through a limited six-week run.

The team may not be quite as fresh-faced as they once were but the boys still have impressive reserves of energy as they throw themselves around the stage with occasional support from audience members happy to be in the limelight for their two minutes of West End fame.

Starting with cavemen, RSC looks at sports at various key stages in history, the Greeks, Romans and Elizabethans providing stopping-off points on the way to the modern era.

Every sport under the sun is lampooned from virtual boxing, cricketing narcolepsy and about ten variants of football to aquatic and track and field as well as the more obscure cheese-rolling, dwarf-tossing and Pacman.

The sports are leavened with occasional up-to-date political and social observations guaranteeing that today's whipping boys, G4S, are given an extra dose of opprobrium along with dopey sports stars.

There are many highlights and for aficionados, welcome reminders of such global quote-generators as the immortal baseballer Yogi Berra who was as adept at putting his foot in his mouth as a ball into the bleachers, not to mention William Shakespeare.

This is all good fun and while not quite showing writer / performers, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor plus non-writing pal Matt Rippy in championship-winning form, has enough great jokes to please any sports fan who needs a busman's holiday from the wall-to-wall Olympic coverage of the next few weeks.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher