Sad Faces Present The Dawn Chorus

Tue 18th – Sun 30th August 2015


Poppy McLean

at 01:02 on 23rd Aug 2015



This year, Sad Faces Present The Dawn Chorus – and, thereby, a harmless hour of comedy which ultimately doesn’t quite live up to its brilliant premise.

The premise in question is that Goldman-esque gem: the adaption of a somewhat bizarre fictional ‘classic’ for modern audiences – in this case, the work of one J. R. Chapterhouse. Within minutes, however, this enterprise is splitting at the seams; whether through technical errors, bumbling actors or even moral revelation, The Dawn Chorus is doomed to discordancy.

The result should have been a hilarious hour of uproarious tomfoolery. And, indeed, the audience were by no means silent: only a few jokes received no laughs at all, and some moments had some of the more enthusiastic spectators doubling up in their seats. The trio had an special skill for physical comedy: watching the three men lunging to drink from the same teacup in their desperation to all play the same person, or the forced theatrical euthanasia of Tobi Wilson’s character really was fantastic. Tom Crowley’s performance as the lisping, limp-wristed love interest was also an inspired touch, as were some extremely witty one-liners, especially those exploiting the cultural shift from the novel’s setting.

Despite these flashes of brilliance, however, it must be agreed that the show was indeed heavy on lulls: scenes during which the humour was blunt and the whole experience generally a little bit clunky. The show relied often on bald repetition for laughs and, while this can be (and, initially, was) employed very effectively with the right timing and some comic colour, here it rarely amounted to more than uncomfortably prolonged reiteration.

Furthermore, it felt as if there was little to help differentiate significantly between the members of the group as comic personae, a key comic element for many comedy troupes. A few moments towards the end just felt like straight overacting, and on occasion the interrupting conversation between the trio simply wasn’t comic enough to feel like much more than an unwanted deceleration. The result was that laughter was frequently irregular and uncertain. For these reasons, as well as a painfully misjudged ending gimmick, I cannot call the show as an unqualified success.

Nevertheless, there were, as I say, some groups of the packed audience who laughed frequently, and we all enjoyed rare moments of comedy gold.


Mel Beckerleg

at 18:02 on 23rd Aug 2015



Sad Faces present the Dawn Chorus is funny. It’s the kind of funny that leaps off-stage and hits you over the head with a French baguette. Not that that actually happened, but you wouldn’t be surprised if it did. Tobi Wilson, Jack Bernhardt and Tobi Wilson make up the Sad Faces trio; three confident and zany performers who give a ‘retelling’ of J R Chapterhouse’s The Dawn Chorus brackets a novel. It is a story that travels from England to Ypres, with an in-your-face kind of hilarity that it’s hard to resist.

At times over scripted and self-aware, the performance is full of bad puns and obvious jokes, but the delivery is quite frankly hilarious. It’s certainly not the most intelligent kind of humour, yet it had the audiences in stitches. A particular highlight was the involvement of audience members as the actors attempted to simultaneously play their favourite character. It’s a play that mocks itself so that audience don’t have to. The take-away Wikipedia entry is also a real gem.

I had my reservations about going to see a comedy centred around such a grave subject as the First World War – and to be honest I was probably right. For the most part, the story is inoffensive, swinging between a generic period comedy and a parody of almost any war film you can think of – it’s a bit like Blackadder, only less clever. However, towards the end the show, ironically in an attempt to excuse its own tastelessness, the show somehow crosses a line, and the gags move from the side-splittingly funny and veer towards the uncomfortable.

It’s a shame, given how talented the performers are, that the play lacks the sensitivity to distinguish between comedy and crassness. There are ways to set a comedy during periods of conflict, but wailing hysterically and rewriting history just don’t cut it.

For those with particularly strong sensitivities, it’s probably worth giving it a miss. Yet if replacing poignant moments with kung-fu action sequences and flashing lights sounds like your kind of thing, you’re sure to enjoy an absolute whale of a time.


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