Reed Martin is the Managing Partner of The Reduced Shakespeare Company – a company which uses long, serious subjects to create short, sharp evenings of comedy.
Hailed as “pithier than Python” and “irresistible” by the New York Times, Reduced Shakespeare Company’s now famous The Complete Works of Shakespeare was a hit when it first toured Australia. Now the comedy trio returns to Oz with a brand new work The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged).
Co writer and director Reed Martin talks with Craig Dalglish about his inspirations, the answers to some BIG questions and how the Good Book just got better…
Can you tell us a bit about the Reduced Shakespeare Company and how it developed?
We started performing at Renaissance Festivals in California. They were supposed to be recreations of Elizabethan villages, but were really just an excuse for beer and cleavage. The public paid to get into the festival but once inside the shows were free, so we made our money by passing the hat at the end. That’s how we developed our “fast, funny and furious” style – to make sure the audience never got bored and stayed until the end of the show so that we could ask them for money.
Your other shows have included The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and The History of America. Where do you get your ideas from?
We tend to look for long and sometimes boring topics that people take too seriously, like religion, politics, and literature. Then we cut out all the minor characters and unimportant subplots and get right to the sex and the killing, which is what people really want to see.
Where does one start when trying to abridge the Bible?
We decided to start of the Book of Genesis. And, interestingly, we finish with the Book of Revelation. We cover all the biggies from Adam and Eve to Jesus. The rehearsals for the Sodom and Gomorrah sketch were exhausting.
What can people expect from The Bible – The Complete Word of God (Abridged)?
Most audiences leave the theatre with a feeling of nausea and motion sickness.
What are some of the “BIG” God questions do you hope to answer for audiences?
Does God exist? Does God have a sense of humor? Why isn’t the word “phonetic” spelled the way it sounds?
[pull_left] we cut out all the minor characters and unimportant subplots and get right to the sex and the killing, which is what people really want to see[/pull_left]
The show had played in various countries around the world. Have you noticed any differences in how audiences appreciate the comedy?
Audiences in England tend to be quieter. Audiences in American tend to be louder. Audiences in Australia tend to be Australian.
Can you tell us about the cast?
The cast is brilliant. They have toured the world with the RSC from Asia to North America to Europe. Their background includes classical Shakespeare, Improvisation and Circus.
As creator/ Director what has been the easiest thing about the creative process for this show?
I think the easiest part of the creative process for this particular show was the structure. It’s Old Testament in Act I and New Testament in Act II. When we performed at the Jerusalem Festival we only had to do Act I.
It was tough to find the sweet spot between irreverent and blasphemous. I think we’ve managed to do it.
Who or what inspires you?
Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers, Classic Loony Tunes, Monty Python and Noam Chomsky.
What advice would you give other comedy writers?
We got some great advice years ago from the Bernard Levin who was the Theater Critic for The Times of London. He’d seen us perform and asked us out for lunch. We were writing our second show and were struggling with how to approach it. He told us to just write what was funny to us.
What is next for Reed Martin?
Later this month we begin rehearsals for our ninth stage show – The Complete History of Comedy (abridged). So I’ve got some writing to do! We premiere the show at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park on Saturday, November 9 at 7:30pm. We hope to see you there.
Athenaeum Theatre August 5 – 17
T: (03) 9650 1500
Dunstan Playhouse, Festival Centre August 19 – 21
T: Bass 131 246
Playhouse Canberra Theatre Centre August 23 – 24
T: (02) 6275 2700
Brisbane Powerhouse August 27 – September 1
T: (07) 3358 8600 Brisbane
Playhouse, Sydney Opera House September 3 – 15
T: (02) 9250 7777