The Donfather

Sat 3rd – Fri 9th August 2013


Costanza Bertoni

at 20:31 on 6th Aug 2013



As an Italian, one thing that has always intensely bothered me about gangster films is that the much quoted term ‘capish’ is not, in actual fact, a word. This now universally acknowledged verbal symbol of mafia Dons fails to recognise the dialectal origins of the word, and thus also that not all Italians really speak like that.

Critique of 1970s film scripts over, the relevance of this to the parodic production ‘The Donfather’ is that much like the word ‘capish’ this show turned an original concept (a surreal comedy parodying American Gangster films) into a stereotypical, shallow and flat version of what it originally intended to be. In fact, the parody was not at all successful, ‘capish’!

The show tells the story of Inspector Charlie who acts as an under cover ‘cop’ in order to supposedly investigate the activities of the Don and his side kicks. However, Inspector Charlie turned out to not be who we thought he was, after a series of twists and turns, double bluffs and red-herrings, that I’m not entirely sure I hooked on to, or understood.

The humour, although well rehearsed, was incredibly infantile, as many of the punch lines were anticipated, either through cliche’s or because they had already been mentioned. A standard of humour that should be aimed at under 12s, not over 12s, as their age suggestion dictates. The topic range of their comedy does however, shoots my previous statement down. Comprising of toilet humour, jokes about women and necrophilia, the effect on the audience was not parody as much as antipathy; you could hear Francis Ford Coppola cry out as his Academy Award winning scripts were debased to joking about an officer-in-chief’s irregular bowel movement.

A hit-and-miss performance standard from most of the cast, however the most prominent actor of the group was Jack Smail, who had a loud, engaging voice, often with an unfaltering natural twang to his American accent.

I did have high expectations for the ‘Donfather’, being a fan of cinema and sketch comedy, but entirely lacking in comic originality and punch, I feel that the show actually shot itself in the foot.


Anjali Joseph

at 09:49 on 7th Aug 2013



Dubious Chicago accents, bad puns and a bizarre funk soundtrack that wouldn’t have been out of place in a budget 1970s porn film, the Donfather – a parody of American gangster films – was disappointingly poor. From minor errors (holding signs upside down and turning down the house lights five minutes too early, leaving the audience in the dark with nothing but the pulsing funk) to much bigger blunders (sorry gentlemen, but casual sexism and necrophilia jokes are never funny) the entire production lacked subtlety, taste and polish.

The Phat Beavers’ intention to use “clichés that aren’t clichés” was old within the first five minutes of the production. It was unfortunate, therefore, that this was a device that seemed to form the basis for much of their comic material. Entire chunks of the plot were completely superfluous, and the attempts at the surreal (notably, Lou’s description of his bathroom encounter with a janitor) featured dialogue so verbose that it was impossible to follow. Clumsy resolutions of plot twists were commonplace, and the tendency to fall back on toilet humour and borderline racist characterisations did little to improve the writing.

The acting itself was patchy, with unsuccessful attempts at Mexican, Liverpudlian, Chicago, and even a straight English accents (the actor in question seemingly was English). When not speaking, the cast often disengaged completely, going blank-eyed and not reacting to the dialogue. Charlie’s initial monologue was peppered with long, contrived pauses. This felt more like a school production than an original piece written and performed by adults, with actors stumbling over their lines and hamming up tired jokes that echoed in the awkward silence.

The Donfather would benefit from rewriting, as well as further rehearsal. The ensemble was trying too hard to cleverly manipulate the gangster movie trope, to the detriment of both the plot and the comedy. A show which had the potential to exploit an entire genre of films for a wealth of material, the Donfather limited itself to producing a lifeless, diluted imitation which fell short of expectations.


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