I went into Studiospace’s production of Peter Shaffer’s farce Black Comedy with high expectations, mainly because the description of the play on the official Facebook page included the words ‘comedic train-wreck’, which sounded pretty funny. Also, who doesn’t want to see people falling over for comedic effect? Gladly, I was not disappointed.
Before the play had even begun there was live band performing for the audience. The trio, who wouldn’t have looked out of place at Woodstock, played a fantastic selection of 60s classics which set the tone nicely for when the play began.
The production, which was directed by Kate Stokes, opened to a darkened stage; you could hear the actors, but couldn’t see them, very intriguing. All of a sudden, the lights came on, for the audience at least. For the characters, the opposite was true; they were in a blackout. So the comedic train-wreck began.
‘Black Comedy’ was genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny. Marcus Hills played the gauche and increasingly flustered Brindsley, and his descent into probably the most bizarre and unexpected night of his life, wonderfully. Miss Furnival, his prim and proper neighbour from upstairs, was played hilariously by Suki Bergg. She captured what was presumably Miss Furnival’s first foray into the dizzying world of alcoholic beverages with just the right amount of slurring and stumbling, without being over the top, and delivered some cracking lines with tidy comedic precision. In fact, the whole production had a sense of precision to it, as far as a farce can be called precise. The actors, playing characters attempting to navigate a cluttered flat in darkness, never seemed to be overdoing the stumbling. They weren’t flying around bashing into everything, but rather tentatively picking their way across the stage. No doubt it must be quite difficult to act as if you’re in darkness when you’re not, and the production was so enjoyable because the cast managed to consistently maintain the illusion of a blackout; even though the lights were on, it did genuinely seem, for the most part, that the characters were in total darkness. They fell onto and out of furniture, and tried to interact with each other whilst looking in completely the wrong direction. While I find farce can sometimes be too big, in this production all the trips, the falls, the bumping into each other and the toppling down stairs were executed well, and actually seemed spontaneous.
Josh Hunter’s Harold Gorringe, neighbour and antique collector extraordinaire, was another character who drew huge laughs from the audience. His navigations of the stage were particularly funny, and, without revealing any *spoilers*, his relationship with Brindsley, and how it played out on stage was one of the highlights of the production.
All in all, ‘Black Comedy’ was a very funny piece of theatre. All of the actors embodied their roles with a hilarious conviction, which had the audience laughing from start to finish, and the concept of the reversal of light and dark was effectively, and, more importantly, believably employed. ‘Black Comedy’ lived up to its promise of a comedic train-wreck in the best possible way.