Surgeons: A Farce

Tue 7th – Sat 11th May 2013


Ashley Chhibber

at 02:27 on 8th May 2013



“I hardly think this is a laughing matter.” So says the publicity, presumably ironically; unfortunately, this quote turned out to be largely accurate. Although billed as a farce, the laughs from the audience were unhappily infrequent, certainly to begin with; meanwhile, the absurdities of the plot were neither absurd enough to propel the play forward under its own steam, nor realistic enough to remove this piece from the farcical sphere.

Certain scenes, such as the references to Monty Python and to meta-theatre, really did not work. It is not easy to say whether these were poorly written or presented or whether, and this is slightly more likely, they just did not fit into this type of show. More generally, some lines were overly convoluted and could have been far tighter. Yet overall, Milo Edwards’ script was good; there was a good degree of cohesion, without any particular low points, and much of the dialogue was fantastic and allowed the actors to put in strong performances.

The Inspector (Gabriella Jeakins) was a good character, who unfortunately did not have too many comic lines, but worked best on quite a basic level; once the plot developed, her character ceased to fit quite so well into the narrative. Harriet Cartledge’s P.A. came across very well, and was one of the strongest characters. Her portrayal was realistic and full of life, and managed to convey the idea of a person absurd enough to fit easily and naturally into this farce, but not so absurd as to be unbelievable. The dry humour of Milo Edwards as Tom usually, although not always, worked well. As the play progressed, the audience laughed more, but the intimate space of Corpus retained a quiet and subdued atmosphere throughout.

Kate (Alys Williams) and Pete (Rob Foxall-Smith) were also strong supporting characters, both with their own distinct style and personality traits, but not necessarily developed enough to cover some of the weaker lines and scenes. Nathan Jeffers’ portrayal of hospital manager Ian is difficult to place. His acting was incredibly hammy, which is certainly required by the farce genre. Yet some of his more intense scenes would have been more powerful had they been more distinct from the rest of his performance; as such, his comic over-acting almost started to work against him.

Despite some first-night gremlins, lighting and sound were used in a successful, if not hugely innovative, manner; there was a particular use of red lighting which added a great deal of intensity to the scene in question. The set design was superb: although the key features – a sofa, a television, a cupboard – were simple, they described the staff-room scene very efficiently; more interesting were background elements such as posters which added an extra, more individual character.

As a final word, it is perhaps useful to note that both the acting and the writing were often strong, but not strong enough for either to stand up by itself. When the two came together, this was an enjoyable production; however, more often than not, one or the other aspect let down a scene (or else neither buoyed it up sufficiently) and the weaknesses of the play became apparent.


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