Celebrated US playwright Neil Simon once observed that at the final curtain of a good farce, ‘the audience must be as spent as the actors, who by now are on oxygen support’.
And I can certainly attest to stifling yawns between guffaws just watching the nine actors racing around Usain Bolt-like, slamming doors and dropping trousers at breakneck speed in this Michael Frayn piece.
This ‘farce within a farce’ sees a group of inept B-circuit theatre actors performing a comedy entitled ‘Nothing On’ (A nice touch too was the programme within a programme).
We see three versions of the first act - the first at their ominously hurried, ill-prepared rehearsal, the second at a matinee performance a month later and viewed from behind the scenes, and the third near the end of their tour, seen from front of house.Unfortunately the actors allow inter-cast affairs and problems to affect their on-stage ‘professionalism’, resulting in what started as already mediocre descending into pure chaos, with a few nosebleeds, murder attempts and slipping on sardines thrown in along the way.
All of the cast were utterly credible and hilarious at the same time, and timing was immaculate throughout but, for me, special praise must go to David Bark-Jones for his pure athleticism as he bounded up and fell down stairs for his art.
I’ve seen many farces over the years, but with its ingenious plot, this added a new dimension for me. A tour de farce even.