Interview: Matt Rippy of The Reduced Shakespeare Company

Ahead of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s second visit to the Playhouse on November 4th as part of their extended UK tour, Lilliana Brannan caught up with actor Matt Rippy, to find out just how crazy you have to be to attempt abridging Shakespeare.

Hi Matt. Congratulations on the success of your tour! Can you sum up the idea behind The Reduced Shakespeare Company?

Thank you! Basically we (Gary Fannin, Matthew Pearson, Simon Cole) perform all thirty seven of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies and histories in ninety seven minutes. That’s not to say we race through every play – it’s clever use of strategic reduction. All the boring stuff gets cut and we give you the sex, the violence, the death.

Wow. It must be pretty demanding doing all that in ninety seven minutes.

It is fast paced. It’s literally an Olympic workout. We’re running around dancing, fighting, killing each other – it’s full contact, impact sports and there’s a lot of injuries on that field – we scrape ourselves, bruise, bleed, fall off stage. I guess extreme comedy equals extreme pain.

Wow. Sounds like you guys are kind of mental. You’ve also abridged America, the bible, Hollywood – where do you get your ideas from? Is there anything in particular that inspires your comedy?

“It’s full contact, impact sports and there’s a lot of injuries on that field”– Actor Matt Rippy on The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s UK Tour.

RSC started as a bit of street theatre in California. We did fifteen minute pieces of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, all sorts and we’d grab whoever was watching and make them join in. When we got into theatres we didn’t want to lose that sense of immediacy. We like to blow away that fourth wall, sought of like we’re still on the streets and the audience is effectively the fourth actor, who we’re not paying! You’ll definitely see us running around the audience at some point.

You’ve been in RSC since 1996 and The Complete Works has been running for a while; I mean you guys held the accolade of longest running comedy in the West end (nine years!). Have you adapted the shows much since you started?

The Complete Works’ has actually reached its twentieth anniversary and we wanted to celebrate that – so we revised it. We tried to keep it relevant – we took out David Hasselhoff jokes and replaced them with gags about Bieber.

Hasselhoff’s actually starring in Nottingham’s main pantomine this year!

Oh, what? Okay we’re gonna have to get him back in there for Nottingham.

So do you think you’ve finally sold Shakespeare to the masses?

I read somewhere that in England, one in four people have never read or seen Shakespeare live! That’s a lot and you could say it’s our mission to change that. It’s hard to grasp Shakespeare’s jokes – they were relevant in the Elizabethan era but a lot of people don’t understand the humour now so they don’t find it funny. We study it, translate it, and sharpen the humour for modern ears. I would also encourage students to see Shakespeare live. It comes to life, it becomes real.

Good advice. Finally, have you got any tips Nottingham Trent’s budding actors and actresses?

If you want to be an actor ask your friends and family to beat it out of you. If you still want to be an actor then you need to understand it’s hard – there are a million others like you. You need to love it, need it, want it. Once you know for sure that’s how you feel – then continue.


Lilly Brannan

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)[revised] hits Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Monday 4th November 2013, 7.45pm. For tickets please call 0115 941 9419 – student discount with valid ID!