August 9, 2005

Lights! Camera! Reduction! Hollywood is condensed

By Paul Majendie

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The Reduced Shakespeare Company,
famous for making short work of the Bard, is turning its powers
of reduction on Hollywood to cut its pretensions and
insecurities down to size.

"The entertainment industry is America's second biggest
export after weapons," said co-writer Austin Tichenor, after
launching the new show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

"It was time to take a look."

He and fellow American Reed Martin came up with "Completely
Hollywood (Abridged)," a successor to their abridged versions
of Shakespeare, The Bible, Western literature and the history
of America.

"Hollywood has influenced politics and created the cult of
celebrity. We don't have royalty in the States, we have
Angelina Jolie," Tichenor said.

The show, delivered at a frenetic pace with much audience
participation, runs from silent movies through to the making of
a modern epic with all the Hollywood cliches thrown in.

The liberal screenwriter is out to change the world, the
director wants to make a fast buck and take all the credit, the
leading man frets over his close-ups.

"Actors are like cattle. You order them around and just
hope they don't make too much mess," the director proclaims, as
they contemplate making bizarre hybrid sequels like "Gandhi
with the Wind" and "A Fish called Rwanda."

With its product placement and predictable plotlines,
Hollywood is mocked, but with affection by the two writers from

Martin, arguing it was OK to nibble but not bite the hand
that feeds you, said: "This is a not uncritical celebration."

He and Tichenor acknowledge the global reach of Hollywood.

"In the old days everyone was reading Charles Dickens.
Today the point of reference would be The Matrix," Martin said.

The latest show is anarchic slapstick that is vying to
attract audiences at the madcap Edinburgh Fringe, the world's
largest arts festival where 27,000 performances range from a
Thai Transvestite show to a musical about serial killers.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company, with its origins dating
back to California Street Theatre in the Eighties, has found
that brevity pays in today's instant-gratification culture.

The company, which likes to bill itself as "the bad boys of
abridgment," has had four troupes traveling the world and one
show ran for 10 years in London's West End.

Martin is plotting global domination.

"The Shakespeare show playing in Stratford, American
History in Washington DC, The Bible in Jerusalem -- that would
be the dream," he said.