Monday, 23 July 2012

Theatre review: The Complete World of Sports (abridged)

I don't know if you've heard, but there's some kind of sports event coming to That London later this week. As you might expect, I'm mainly seeing it as something that'll get in the way of my theatregoing, but apart from that I tried for the longest time not to be predictably pessimistic about it, and to see The Event That Must Not Be Named as a good thing. But a year's worth of official warnings that everyone who lives in London should give up now and go live in a ditch has made that resolve hard to stick to. Similarly, I was hoping that the Reduced Shakespeare Company, whose original show is still being revived by other companies and still funny, would come up with another hit in their look at the history of sports. But a couple of laugh-free hours of The Complete World of Sports (abridged) proved this to be too optimistic a hope as well. It's performed by Matt Rippy and writer/directors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, who are all likeable enough performers - shame about the material.

I'm pretty stuck on what to say about this show really, framed by a spoof of ESPN-style cable sports networks it's a series of sketches about sport with a lot of silliness and energy but little actual humour. If you're looking for such fresh insights as the fact that some people find cricket boring, Andy Murray is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses, female Eastern European athletes can be a tad mannish, and John McEnroe said "You cannot be serious" that time, this may be the show for you. Tonight's Monday night audience was a bit sparse, and therefore a bit quiet, a fact which the performers made reference to constantly, until people started to whoop and cheer at everything to make up for it. I know from experience that American audiences can be expected to do that from the word go, but despite being a US company the "other RSC" have surely had enough experience of British audiences by now to tailor their shows to a different kind of response, rather than repeatedly telling the audience they're not responding the right way until they give in. I've said before that very occasionally in an empty-ish theatre, the cast seems to take out their frustrations on the people who showed up, rather than those who didn't. This was sadly one of those shows - and having seen it I can't blame all those people who didn't show up.

The Complete World of Sports (abridged) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor is booking until the 25th of August at the Arts Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes including interval. An unnecessary interval, which I guess is appropriate though since American sports are arranged around the ad breaks.

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