104 posts categorized "Comedy" Feed

Review: Blood, dead cats and very (very) dark humour. Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noel Coward

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a deliciously dark, satirical comedy.

Cards on the table: I'm a huge Martin McDonagh fan. I like the way he makes you laugh about stuff that shouldn't be funny. 

IMG_9487He takes something gruesome, cruel or amoral and pokes fun at it by making it matter of fact, part of the domestic landscape.

And in that respect The Lieutenant of Inishmore is akin to a kitchen sink drama; the everyday life of a family living in rural Ireland but one of them, 'Mad Padraic' (Aidan Turner), just happens to be a violent terrorist, too violent for the IRA who won't let him among their ranks.

Cat murder

Think Father Ted with an unstable terrorist living in the parochial house. And the terrorist is a cat lover. And his cat gets killed.

Local teen Davey (Chris Walley) is in the frame for the killing - but more likely framed - and he, together with Padraic's father Donny (Denis Conway), hatch a plan to cover up the gruesome crime.

There plan is one that wouldn't look out of place in a Saturday night TV sit-com and it becomes a race against time to hide the evidence before torture-loving, bomb-maker Padraic returns home.

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Comedy for the weekend: Funny and philosophical - Sarah Kendall, One-Seventeen, Soho Theatre

It is a show that rolls along with laughs but leaves you with a warm fuzzy glow and a feeling that everything will be OK.

Australian Sarah Kendall (Writers' Guild Best Radio Comedy 2018) is a storyteller, a philosopher and very funny. Or to put it another way, she made me laugh and she made me think... and she made me think about Hamlet.

Sarah Kendall5 - credit Rosalind Furlong
Photo by Rosalind Furlong

You see, in Shakespeare’s play the Prince Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Which is pretty much her dad’s way of looking at life. Her mother is the opposite and sees danger everywhere. Everywhere.

Aussie self-deprecation

Kendall’s routine explores this idea of glass half full/glass half empty thinking using stories from her life - growing up, being grown up, her family and friends.

Of course, it is served up with the familiar Aussie self-deprecation, sarcasm and dark humour.

She is one of those comedians that can cleverly tell one longer story while peeling off shorter stories at the same time.

They are ordinary stories and anecdotes that demonstrate the silliness and absurdity of human behaviour.

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Review: Napoleon Disrobed, Arcola Theatre - riotous, surreal and silly fun

What if Napoleon hadn't died in exile but had escaped using a body double? This is the opening premise of Napoleon Disrobed which has been adapted by Told By An Idiot from the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys.

Napoleon disrobed arcola manuel Harlan
Ayesha Antoine and Paul Hunter in Napoleon Disrobed, Arcola Theatre. Photo Manuel Harlan

In what is a fun, silly, surreal and quirky piece we see the historical figure, played with brilliant Englishness by Paul Hunter, navigating modern-day Europe, trying to live the life of an ordinary person and not get spotted.

Until, that is, he wants people to know who he really is and that is where his problems really start and where the themes of the play start to bubble to the surface.

His story becomes a series of connected sketches that get more and more random - playing tennis with a frying pan and an inflatable fruit random.

Living in Paris with a melon seller 'Ostrich' (Ayesha Antoine), his friends grow concerned by his increasing insistence that he is indeed Napoleon.

So, they take him to a hospital and, in a nice piece of audience interaction, he is shown all the other people who insist they too are the French statesman.

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Review: My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court - my first five star play of 2018?

Patsy Ferran’s ‘girl’ is sat in the corner playing a mini Casio keyboard. She says ‘hello’ to me and I go and sit on a red bean bag on the turquoise coloured carpet.

Helen murray-My-Mums-A-Twat-patsy ferran royal court
Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

We are in a kids bedroom - not a surreal dream but the set of Anoushka Warden's play My Mum's A Twat.  The furniture has glittery stickers on it, there's a shelf of Troll dolls, photos and pictures stuck to the walls.

This room, ironically, becomes a marker for the end of innocent childhood a time before the divorce and marriage to ‘moron’ lead her Mum into a ‘healing’ cult and a journey of estrangement and conflict between mother and daughter.

Patsy Ferran’s girl tells the story bubbling with defiance, resourcefulness and sassiness. You can imagine the pursed lips of the adults in her life.

Her tale unfolds through the prism of child then teen logic but while there is no abuse or great cruelty the perceived emotional abandonment by her Mum smacks hard and there are hints of the pain it causes.

We are transported swiftly from the ‘healing centre’ of her mother’s cult to Canada and back again with effervescent energy, colour and wit but in the still moments the hurt that ripples to the surface is all the more powerful.

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Fringe review: Do opposites attract in Lobster, Theatre503

The gold, helium-filled, party balloon letters at the back of the stage spell out 'Happy Fucking Whatever' which forms an appropriate back drop to this relationship comedy drama in which J (Alexandra Reynolds) seems to represent the 'Happy' part and K (Louise Beresford) the 'Whatever'.

They bump into each other at a party several months after they have split up which becomes the starting point for a journey looking at how they met, fell in love and fell out of it again.

Lobster - Ali Wright-9
L-R Louise Beresford and Alexandra Reynolds in Lobster. Photo Ali Wright

J is one of those naturally happy people. Always cheerful, excited, agreeable and eager to please. She is also traditional wants to get married and have a family.

K has a dry wit and can be sarcastic to the point of coming across like she doesn't care. She's doesn't really know what she wants.

As they recall the details of their first date, they correct and contradict each other. It is charming, and amusing - snappily written and performed - but also perhaps an early sign of how their differences might actually shape their relationship.

At first the light and dark in their personalities complement and it is what they love about each other but life, dreams and experience start to mould things differently.

Lucy Foster's play isn't just a funny drama about the quirks of love and being a couple, it is also a keenly observed look at the complexity of relationships made more so by the complexity of human nature.

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Fringe theatre interview: Playwright Lucy Foster on her new play Lobster and writing comedy

Lucy Foster's new play Lobster opens this week at Theatre503, here she talks about the play and writing comedy.

Tell us about Lobster - no spoilers please

Lobster opens at a party in January, where a bubbly and bright J is introduced to a hungover K. The only problem being: these two Lobster500only just broke up a few months before. As J and K run through their relationship we see the love and heartbreak of these two women, who are trying so hard to love each other - and realising that love isn't always enough. 

I imagine that writing comedy is no joke - just how challenging is it? 

For years I didn't touch comedy as it really scared me. I think when you're sat alone at your laptop it's so hard to know if something is actually funny. It's only been in the last few years that I have started putting humour into my work, and realising - oh, this works! I often find that the funniest lines come straight from real life - in the same way that you'll laugh the hardest with your friends, the best comedy is completely relatable. 

What I've found to be the most important thing about writing comedy into my plays is finding the balance between the funny and the dramatic. My favourite plays are ones that really contrast that light and dark, as the heartbreak is always sadder when it's set against the humour of the characters. I'm hoping I've been able to do the same with Lobster. 

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The new play, new theatre experience - Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre

IMG_5152The benefits of being a brand new theatre is that you can address a lot of the niggles people have with older theatres: uncomfortable seats, lack of space for refreshments, bad sight-lines and not enough ladies loos etc. Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr's Bridge Theatre beautifully situated on the opposite bank of the Thames to the Tower of London seems to have made a pretty good job of it.

Walking in, it is light and airy without feeling stark and impersonal and I imagine the spacious cafe/bar area will double as a nice daytime hangout. The seats are comfortable (a bit like those at the Royal Court) but sight-lines will have to be an ongoing test as the configuration is going to change. For this production we sat in the middle of front row and although the stage is reasonable high, I've sat closer to higher stages, so it was perfectly fine.

And as for the ladies loos, there are lots of them and there is even an 'in' and 'out' door to the main facilities similar to The Globe which means a better flow if you'll excuse the pun. Only one minor quibble is that the coat/bag hooks on the back of cubicle doors are really high - I had to stand on tip toes to reach it. I know I'm short but even so it was the primary topic of conversation as people were washing their hands.

And what about the play? It would have been easy to open with a relatively safe classic but Hytner and Starr are setting out their stall by choosing a new play by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman. Obviously they aren't strangers, Hytner having directed Bean's plays England People Very Nice, One Man, Two Guv'nors and Great Britain and this has the potential to be a crowd pleaser.

It's a bit of a romp in fact, telling the story of the time, the 30-something Karl Marx's (Rory Kinnear) lived in exile with his family in Soho. The central narrative is his journey from disillusioned genius, thinking of jacking it all in to work on the railways, back to the writer, thinker and activist he is famed for.

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Review: It's 'yes' or 'no' answers and The Majority rules, National Theatre

IMG_5112If you don't leave the theatre, after seeing The Majority, talking about the show and feeling challenged then you weren't really paying attention. Part stand up, part story, part morality test, comedian Rob Drummond examines democracy mixing his own story (with added dramatic licence, he admits) and a series of live votes.

As you enter the auditorium you are given a small key pad (pictured) and, during the show, are invited to press one for 'yes' and two for 'no' in relation to a series of statements. The results are displayed moments later on screens as percentages and the majority rules.

The statements on which your opinion is sought start off with basics to establish the make up of the audience and rules (should we allow latecomers, for example) moving on to re-runs of recent referendum votes and a variety of moral dilemmas. Some relate to variations of a scenario involving a deadly runaway train heading towards a group of workmen, others relate to the story Rob Drummond tells.

His story is about a random encounter he had the morning after the Scottish independence referendum and how that took him on a journey across Scotland and into the world of protests, activism, freedom of speech and the far right.

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My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre

via GIPHY 

2017 is already the year that brought us Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman and my introduction to playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and it's only six months in. There are a further nine plays I couldn't not include in my 'best of so far' list and that was with the bar set very high. I've still got Angels in America, Ben Whishaw in Against, Rory Kinnear in Young Marx and the awarding winning Oslo to come later this year, among many others potential theatre treats - the end of year list is already looking tricky to narrow down.

Anyway, here's what I've enjoyed the most in 2017 so far. Feel free to agree/disagree...

(In no particular order, because that would be too traumatic to do.)

1. Amadeus, National Theatre  This was supposed to be a 2016 play but I gave up my ticket for the early part of the run because of work pressures, good words from @PolyG made me rebook for January and I'm so glad I did. It was a play that unexpectedly floored me. It's returning next year and yes I've got a ticket.

2. Out Their On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Fringe theatre kicked off in fine style with this brilliantly warm, funny, odd, dark, misfit comedy that was the antidote to everything disturbing that was going on the world at the time. It transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 and I got to enjoy it all over again.

3. Hamlet, Almeida  I've seen a lot of Hamlet's and there is usually something new in each but Andrew Scott's prince in Robert Icke's production made me look at the play with completely new eyes. Sorry Sherlock but this was a battle that Moriarty definitely won. It's transferred to the West End.

4. An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre  Was tipped off about American playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and this is the first of his plays I've seen. It's a play I could write reams and reams about and reminded me why I love going to the theatre. Gloria, another of his plays is currently on at Hampstead Theatre, it didn't quite make this list but it is still really good.

5. Rotterdam, Arts Theatre  This was in my 'best of' list last year but after a stint off Broadway it's come back to London to the bigger Arts Theatre. It made me laugh, it made me gasp and it made me cry - all that even though I've seen it before and knew exactly what was coming. That's why it's back on the list. It's on until 15 July.

6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic  It's possibly the only Tom Stoppard play I really like and this was a great production that was lively, entertaining, profound and melancholic . There was a brilliant rapport between the two leads - Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire - and David Haig as The Player was worth the ticket price alone.

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Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre or this is why I go to the theatre

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other RichardThe first thing I have to say is 'thanks' to @mildlybitter. I'd not heard of An Octoroon or Branden Jacob-Jenkins but she recommended his play which is having its European premiere at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and I'm so glad she did.

Jacob-Jenkins has taken Dion Boucicault's 1850s play but made it a play within a play by putting both himself, played by Ken Nwosu, and Boucicault (Kevin Trainor) into the story. But more than that. They talk directly to the audience, argue with each other and also play several of the characters in the original play. It's brilliantly Brechtian, meta and, with a Bre'r-rabbit running around, surreal but I'll come on to all that.

In Boucicault's The Octoroon George (Nwosu) returns home to Louisiana from Paris to find Terrabonne, the plantation he has inherited, is about to be repossessed. Local heiress Dora (Celeste Dodwell) fancies him and a marriage to her could secure the plantation - and the slaves it keeps. But George has fallen for Zoe (Lola Evans) the illegitimate daughter of his uncle from his relationship with a slave who has been brought up as part of the family.

The villain of the piece is wealthy Jacob M'Closky (also played by Nwosu) who wants Zoe for himself despite her having spurned his advances. M'Closky intercepts a cheque which could save Terrabonne and also discovers something about Zoe's legal status which he decides to use to his advantage.

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