No need to fear the bard

Matt Rippy (left) with The Reduced Shakespeare Company.
Matt Rippy (left) with The Reduced Shakespeare Company.
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Actor Matt Rippy believes people are afraid of Shakespeare. He says: ‘People think they don’t understand him. Kids study him at school and that’s it really, but Shakespeare was incredibly creative.’

The American stars in the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised].

The play, which consists of Shakespeare’s 37 plays performed in 97 minutes, comes to The Berry Theatre, Hedge End on Monday and Tuesday.

Matt adds: ‘Really, he was just making up stuff. Shakespeare made up more than 1,000 words, and he was using royal gossip and putting it on the stage.’

The actor, who previously starred in Torchwood and had a fleeting appearance in The Dark Knight, has been with the group since 1996: ‘I’ve done five world tours with the company now, and I think we’ve performed it more than 8,000 times. We were performing it in the West End for nearly 10 years.

‘I stick with it because it’s fun and it doesn’t feel like I’m going to work. It’s like showing up to a playground and they are great guys to work with. I love the material and being on the stage.’

As part of a three-man comedy troupe, the actors don’t just run through the plays as fast as possible. Matt explains: ‘Some people suspect we just go through the plays but that’s not what we do – we reduce them.

‘The comedies, all 16 of them, are basically all about cross-dressing or mistaken identity, and they end in a wedding. We’ve put them all together to make a single play. It’s basically four weddings and a transvestite.’

Matt adds: ‘It’s a lot of fun for we actors because we use the audience every night, and they are always different. It’s fresh for everyone.’

He doesn’t live in the UK, but he’s glad to be performing Shakespeare here.

‘It’s great to be back on this wet rock of an island and touring all the fantastic cities and generally having a great time. It’s great to be here in the theatre homeland. It’s the mecca of theatre and Shakespeare’s own country.’

Tickets: £14 to £16 from The Berry Theatre, Hedge End on (01489) 799499 or go to theberrytheatre.co.uk.