“MUD WRESTLING” is not a phrase that’s commonly used to describe the works of William Shakespeare.
Until, that is, you see three-man comedy troupe, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, blaze through all of his 37 plays in a 97-minute irreverent, fast-paced romp.
“For fans of Shakespeare, this is for them, and if they have never seen Shakespeare, then this is the play for them,” says actor Matt Rippy who joined the company back in 1996, and has appeared in blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Penelope.
“People think of Shakespeare as this lofty British institution but really he was just mucking around, having fun with language.
“The other RSC like to hold him aloft and put him on a pedestal. We like to pull him off his pedestal down into the mud with the rest of us. It’s like mud wrestling!”
Rippy said the secret to getting through so many plays in one show was down to one technique: “We use a clever strategy called cheating.
“We took a look at the comedies. About 16 or 17 of the comedies are the same plot over and over again. Like an American sitcom - he is just milking them.
“So we made the quintessential comedy he should have written; The Comedy of Two Well-Measured Gentlemen Lost in the Merry Wives of Venice on a Midsummer’s Twelfth Night in Winter.
“Look at the histories, you have all these kings running up and down fields passing crowns down to each other.
“So it’s like American football but with a crown...”
Since debuting the original show back in 1987, the ‘other RSC’ has abridged a number of other subjects including The Complete History of America and The Bible: The Complete Word of God.
“The way I figure it, as long as there are long, boring topics in the world, we can abridge them,” Rippy adds. “Essentially, all we do is cut out the boring stuff and get to the sex and violence.”
But after 8,500 performances in 17 countries, with 80,000 hammy deaths and 16,525 inflatable balloon breasts, the Complete Works of Shakespeare has been updated and is back on tour.
“It’s our first original revised,” he reveals.
“We would like to expose our bard to you.
“And we’ve updated it, there’s no more jokes about Jimmy Carter.”
And the performer warns audiences to be ready to get up close and personal to the onstage action.
“When we share a stage, we like to think of the audience as a fourth member.
“It’s like scratch and sniff theatre, you can smell the tights...”
The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (abridged and revised) is at Solihull Arts Complex on Wednesday, May 22.