Odds and Ends

Wed 14th – Sat 17th March 2012

reviews

Jessica Murray

at 02:15 on 15th Mar 2012

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Odds and Ends opens with a shaft of light framing a scene we are all familiar with- the straight faced foreign affairs correspondent punctuating each lilting sentence with a nod, squinting into the middle distance as he squares his shoulders into a serious, yet flattering stance. He replaces the place simply with “here” and the conflict with a reluctant “all this war stuff” and the laughter rises. Comedy can be at its most brilliant when it touches on issues that are painful, controversial and- most importantly- universal.

Dan (Alex Gomar), Steve (Charlie Merriman) and Rigby (Rupert Mercer), are three British servicemen facing execution at the hands of terrorists. Initially Odds and Ends promises to face a topic which is rarely touched upon with anything other than closed eyes and silence. The individual performances were strong, and the main characters immediately snap into a barrage of punny, word-bending madness, with Dan acting as the frustrated pillar of crumbling sanity against the unhinged shenanigans of Steve and Rigby.

Unfortunately, the black humour of three characters trapped in a small room with only their eccentricities to keep them company quickly becomes a prison of a concept for the play and while the hectic pace never changes, neither does the tone of the jokes. The potential for scathing political satire in the foreign correspondent segments failed to materialise, as Tudor Bungle (Peter Skidmore) played the same word replacement game again and again. In the end it sat uneasily with the sheer silliness of the rest of the action. The late addition of the wonderfully insane Captain Captain Crazy Party Party [no typo] (Jennie King) only added more of the same to a pool of humour which was dangerously close to being stagnant by the end of the play.

With such lively performances from each of the actors, it was the lack of any coming together of the different thematic elements of the play which let the ensemble down. For a moment the irrepressible Dan falls silent, his manic grin slipping away, and finally asks “All this death stuff, it’s horrible isn’t it?” Buried in this last minute attempt to find meaning in the play was the issue that gave this play such potential- the black comedy which is the endless human capacity for war. This is not to say that Odds and Ends could or should have attempted to answer this question; I felt that there was much to be explored not only in the bleakly humorous uselessness of conflict, but in the fact that in real life the necessity of sacrificing of lives to warfare is so often the unchallenged elephant in the room in the context of modern day servicemen and women. A great joke has the power not only to point to uncomfortable truths, but to exploit ambiguities and unknowns, and this power was never fully realised in Odds and Ends.

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