The C Bomb

Fri 3rd – Sat 11th August 2018

reviews

Ed Strang

at 09:54 on 5th Aug 2018

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The C-Bomb is riotous comedy written, performed, and directed by some of Oxford University’s brainiest young crop. The plot centres around the awkward and highly relatable dilemma of telling your previous sexual partners that you have contracted chlamydia, a scenario that is literally begging for satire.

The production is staged in a school just off the Royal Mile, which proves to be a fitting location for what transpires to be a very schoolboy play. The jokes are numerous and witty, yet rather than leaving the audience in stitches, it instead smacked of narcissistic self indulgence. The easy one-liners were performed with aplomb, but this script-heavy performance is less ‘laugh a minute’ than ‘counting down the minutes'.

A number of lazy stereotypes are employed, including but not restricted to a blonde floozy, a pretentious vegan altruist, a rugby-loving jock, a facially-pierced and Adidas-adorned mode, and an overtly privileged, Tory-loving student. The jokes are too often predictable, the characters stereotyped, and the acting passable at best.

The lead character, Chloe, is portrayed to be a confident woman in total possession of her sexual prowess. However, she is ridiculed at the beginning for her long list of previous sexual partners, a point which can’t help but feel backward. The end of the play sees her most recent ex kicked out of the house for his misogynistic views, but again this feels like a weak attempt to confront the underlying theme of sexual equality that runs throughout.

There are, however, a handful of jokes that are genuinely amusing, such as when planning for an STI-themed party Chloe’s housemate suggests a ‘pass the swab test’ game. The best acting comes from the sporty ex-lover, who’s comic timing is unparalleled. The writing is clever, with a number of funny and topical lines, yet the comedy of the script is often lost due to unclear stage direction which leaves the actors randomly dotted around the stage and never quite engaging with each other. All said, the play is enjoyable despite its middle-of-the-road approach, but you can’t help but feel that the production could have done with a few weeks’ extra preparation.

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Martha Crass

at 09:55 on 5th Aug 2018

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The premise of ‘The C-Bomb’ - concerning a student’s diagnosis of chlamydia, which she then decides to explain to her recent sexual partners through the medium of a party - is initially promising. Despite this, after the set-up of the play’s events, the plot is somewhat sidelined in favour of exaggerated character-based humour which feels something of a divergence from what was promised by the title.

The entire production riffed off a whole host of Oxbridge stereotypes, and these actually made up a large part of the show’s comedy. However (despite the truth in these observations), they made the play somewhat isolating. If audience members weren’t familiar with the nature of the Oxford and Cambridge debating societies, or rowing culture, for example, then this show would have been quite alienating. While these jokes aimed to satirise stereotypes, they in fact came across as in-jokes more than anything else.

Moreover these stereotypes, especially for those more familiar with them, were somewhat safe, and this was symptomatic of a general sense of caution from the show’s writers. This didn’t mean the audience found them unfunny; judging from the smattering of laughs, some certainly did. However, these laughs were achieved through jokes whose humour came not from originality, but familiarity. Lines such as ‘have you redecorated?’ ‘no, we just tidied up’, were amusing, but no real step away from the sort of things you might joke about with friends.

There was nothing disastrously flawed about this production, but this absence of any real lows was reflected in a similar absence of any real highs. Both the scripting and the delivery of lines was established on one emotional level, with the exception being a moment later on where one character launched a vitriolic rant against the protagonist and her sexual behaviour, and which prompted an abruptly serious tone to be taken. This outburst was incongruous with the otherwise lighthearted atmosphere of the play, and it jarred with the one-dimensional characterisation which stemmed from each actor playing an undeveloped persona.

‘The C-Bomb’, while less explosive than the name might suggest, was certainly entertaining to some. The actors also seemed to enjoy themselves, and this helped make the play amusing at points; but this is all the jokes really achieved - mild humour.

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