Criterion Theatre, London W1
Opened 7 March, 1996; reviewed November, 2000

The snappy ideas and energy are still there, but several casts down the line it's beginning to feel like just going through the motions.

The cheek of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's exercise is still endearing: telescoping all the comedies into one, or treating the histories as an American football match (with King Lear sent off for being fictional). After nearly five years at the Criterion (and several more years touring these islands), the show has become a West End fixture. As with many such fixtures, however, the original spirit that put a spark into the show has become diluted over time. Co-founder Adam Long, whom I once described as "the jewel in the company's tinsel-and-paste crown", still directs and occasionally performs (the cast of three are drawn from a roster of six actors). The relative newcomers, though, don't quite have the edge of the originals: their dorkiness, frenzy and attempts at gravitas are undermined by a slight but persistent self-consciousness. They can't hide the fact that they're only playing at being gauche Yanks. The show still works, but it no longer fireworks.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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