EFR - Reviews of Black Comedy

Black Comedy

Wed 8th – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

Steve Hartill

at 21:42 on 10th Aug 2012

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This show comes from an interesting concept. Written by Peter Shaffer, it is allegedly inspired by a production of San Ch’a Ko’u by the Peking Opera, in which two men create the illusion of darkness during a duel in the “dark” with all the lights on. Shaffer has re-invented this idea into the show called “Black Comedy”: a name which I find quite confusing as I anticipated a show based around dark and cynical humour. It was instead written with an old-fashioned attitude towards comedy. The format of the plot reminded me of Fawlty Towers with the flustered main character, Brindsley Miller (David Amey) and the domineering female lead Carol Melkett (Georgie Langley) providing the central couple, and the gradual progression of chaos as more and more complications are thrown into the plot. The central idea of the play revolves around the lights. When the lights are up, the events on stage are in the dark: when the lights are down, the characters have light in their world. Although this concept provides an artistic interest, and the stumbling of the characters is entertaining at the start, it does drag on and at points it is merely frustrating.

The set is well laid out and the lighting cues are efficient with the use of different items that provide light, such as a torch, lighters and a candle, are cleverly entertaining. The artist’s sculpture on the side of the stage showcases an inventive attitude towards the play that sadly could not be sustained.

The plot becomes very busy, very quickly: and the element of fumbling around in the dark only makes this more complicated. There are moments of humour when the dialogue provides confusion in the dark, but they are infrequent, and the characters did grate on my nerves, as none seem to possess any redeeming qualities. There are limited moments of slapstick, and most of the play’s events are fairly easy to predict. Overall, the actors’ portrayals are underwhelming, with moments of redeeming comedy.

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Mel Melville

at 09:51 on 11th Aug 2012

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Well, if there’s one thing I can say about this show, the set immediately looks fantastic and the lighting and tech is flawless. The stage is full of wonderfully classy furniture and this is one of the main contributors to the play. What a misleading title. ‘Black Comedy’ to me insinuated dark humour. If this is what you are in to then don’t make the same mistake that I did. For this show is in fact a play on the word ‘black’, and an interesting idea at that. Towards the end of the play it was described as a ‘magic dark room where things happen the wrong way round.’ This was completely apt, for when the actors could see, the audience could not. When the actors were summoned into darkness, the audience had the pleasure of viewing the actors in full light as they stumbled across the stage. A fun idea, yes. But unfortunately, I was more entertained by catching a glimpse of the street performance outside the theatre than I was during the duration of this play. In the show's defence, I think that I was simply not their target audience. The humour was a foul attempt at slapstick, yet the older members of the audience seemed to understand.

The plot is entertaining, full of twists and turns and plenty of easily foreseeable events. However, not one of the characters is likeable, although through no fault of their own - they were simply performing the script in the only way that made sense. The play started in complete and utter darkness, which is a unique start to a play. Sadly, the script is not strong enough for the actors to be acting in darkness. Facial expressions are key and the first few moments of a play are incredibly important, so I was unimpressed from the very beginning. Fortunately, the actors were fantastic at creating the illusion of being in the dark. No one on stage ever looked any other character in the eye and they always appear flustered, never knowing where the stolen furniture is. There is plenty of jibber jabber on stage followed by long drawn out monologues with only one purpose of allowing the physical theatre to develop. The physical side of the play is entertaining, but not for the entire show. The most irritating feature of the play, and of my Edinburgh experience, is the use of the word ‘pegs’ at the end of a ridiculous number of words. This actor (Georgie Langley) must be congratulated for maintaining this hideous quirk and creating such a brilliantly annoying character. Again, despite all the actors being obscenely irritating, they were simply bringing the script alive and should be acknowledged for distinguishable characterisation. However to sum it up neatly, one actor correctly described the whole escapade as becoming ‘dreary.’

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