Radio Memories – The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show.

The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show (BBC World Service, 1994)

This is a rather silly comedy show that I got into, which was originally on the BBC World Service instead of Radio 4. William Shakespeare is of course one of the most successful writers there has ever been, people are still fascinated by his work centuries after it was written, and I do remember studying some of the plays at school. But, well, there’s rather a lot of them, aren’t there, and some of them go on for rather a long time. What can be done about that?

The Reduced Shakespeare Company are an American comedy group that were founded in 1981, where they would perform stage shows all over the world, and try to condense all of the Great Bard’s 37 plays into as little time as possible, accompanied by plenty of fast-moving offbeat ideas. By the early-90s, they were invited to turn this into a series for the radio, by which point the Company consisted of Adam Long (who joined in 1981), Reed Martin (who joined in 1989), and Austin Tichenor (who joined in 1992).

They were given six episodes to try and fit in as much as they could, and they looked back at the comedies, histories, and tragedies, along with dedicating whole episodes of Hamlet and Romeo And Juliet, and they had an amusingly unusual take on all of these. They would do this in all kinds of ways, performing some of the plays, and also doing songs, raps, they’d do anything it takes to try to understand the stories more. vlcsnap-00008

And along with all of this, there were some regular features too. These included a famous person offering their views on Shakespeare, who was always revealed to be performed by “Reed Martin – Professional Impressionist”, even though he simply spoke in his usual voice. Well that’s a shame, I thought that it really had been Queen Elizabeth I in the studio all along. He was also often mocked because he was “completely bald”.

Other highlights included “The Sound Effect Of The Day”, and “Audio Footnote Time”, where a quick additional thought would be added to the information they were sharing. I did find it rather amusing when these two were combined in the final edition, and the “Audio Footnote Time” just consisted of the rather odd sound effect. Also in the final edition, the story was told of the time when Shakespeare supposedly visited America, which went off into some very odd areas.

It was clear that they did love Shakespeare’s work though, and they tried to perform his plays in a record-breaking amount of time. The Reduced Shakespeare Radio Show was repeated a lot a while back, and I always enjoyed listening, as a rather familiar subject was given an unusual twist. Although the line-up of the Company has changed somewhat over the years, they still perform, and they have expanded their work to also condense the history of America, and many other things.

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