Black Comedy

Wed 18th – Sat 21st November 2015

reviews

Kat Gibson

at 04:27 on 19th Nov 2015

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Through Black Comedy run threads of amorous drama and betrayal of trust which combine with humorous characterisation and hilarious misunderstandings to create a genuinely entertaining performance.

The cast of the show compliment each other well, antagonising and playing off one another to craft believable relationships. Adam Mirsky rose to the challenge of acting the main man, Brindsley Miller, by switching effortlessly from blustery boldness to cowardly contrition through the medium of the most wonderfully ludicrous range of facial expressions. Initial misgivings about the comedic value of Hollie Witton as Miss Furnival dissipated with her adept progression into inebriation, while the mere entrance of Colonel Melkett, played by Louis Norris, was chuckle-worthy. Each haranguing speech he gave - littered with pretentious acronyms - produced guffaws of laughter.

Dolores Carbonari as the outwardly simpering Carol Melkett used mannerisms and airs of aristocracy to great effect, sharply contrasting with the bawdy wit and flirtation of down-to-earth Clea, played by Caroline Thornham. However, seductive comments were not Clea’s alone, as the dapper Harold Gorringe (John Tothill) brought his own saucy flair to the proceedings. Matt Gurtler’s adroit portrayal of Schuppanzigh, a German electrician with an irrepressible passion for fine art, was fundamental in producing the funniest of scenes, and finally Georg Bamberger’s (Will Hall) long-awaited arrival and subsequent disappearance resulted in real mirth.

The director cleverly conjured humour from the interaction of characters with the simplest of props - notably some very troublesome chairs and initially elusive matches - as well as making best use of the positions of different characters relative to each other. This is perhaps best explained with an example: picture, if you will, a fuming, irate, moustachioed gentleman aiming a tirade of abusive admonitions not at his cowering prospective son-in-law, who has slipped away unseen in the darkness, but instead at nothing but a table and a vase of flowers. Oh, and a statue of Buddha.

For Black Comedy the astutely managed lighting proved to not just add polish to the piece, but rather be one of the most important factors underpinning its success. The decision to begin the show in darkness was inspired, effectively building intrigue and stimulating curiosity from the word go. Illumination of the stage coinciding with the blowing of a master fuse, an important part of the plot, created comic scenes of stumbling buffoonery, with subsequent dimming and brightening serving to provide numerous opportunities for confusion hilarious to behold. Although the lighting transitions were not as silky smooth as Gorringe’s slick alliterative compliments, the overall effect took the show to a level exceeding expectations for a freshers’ performance.

Despite its somewhat cheesy conclusion, Black Comedy may be just the laughter-inducing tonic you need to combat the dreaded blues (non-exclusive to week 5 for all you university students out there) and momentarily forget winter’s imminence with some light-hearted amusement.

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Joanna Taylor

at 08:46 on 19th Nov 2015

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Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy is quirky and stylish: a highly original concept guaranteed to have audiences in stitches. A laugh-out-loud script animated by brilliantly comic acting and spot-on characterisations makes this a late show worth staying up for.

The scene is the shabby-chic front room of a struggling artist, Brindsley (Adam Mirsky) and his simpering wife-to-be, Carol (Dolores Carbonari) but we cannot see this at first, as the stage is entirely in the dark. Then- a fuse is blown and light fills the room which, to its inhabitants, is a blackout. Brindsley and Carol fumble around, tensions mounting as they are not only expecting a visit from Carol’s father, but from millionaire Geog Bamberger (Will Hall). The blackout brings people together in unexpected ways, and they get more than they bargained for with visitations from neighbours, workmen and unwanted reminders of the past.

The attention to detail after the blackout makes it highly effective. Characters stumble around, never quite look each other in the eye, and use the darkness as a mask for deception. The farcical nature of the situation is hilarious, but what makes this show a true success is its character comedy. Colonel Melkett (Louis Norris) only had to walk on stage to elicit laughter, and his booming voice and supercilious mannerisms remained a highlight throughout. John Tothill as flamboyant art collector Harold Gorringe is also hilarious, effortlessly delivering some of the most humorous lines in the play.

Mirsky and Carbonari were also excellent, fluently remaining in character as the pressure on Brindsley to lie his way out of every terrible decision he has made increases to ridiculous ends. Hollie Witto, as Miss Furnival, Matt Gurtler as Shuppanzigh and Caroline Thornham as Clea provided a further comic backdrop: the cast bounced off each other (sometimes literally), and the audience absolutely loved it.

The professional performance of Black Comedy could quite easily lead you to believe that these are ADC old-hands, but in fact the entire crew is made up of freshers. Credit then to some fantastic directing and producing decisions from Dan Edwards and Lewis Brierly, as well as the efforts of their entire team: especially Karolina Hes, the lighting designer, who was key to this performance for obvious reasons.

Brilliantly pulled-off, and a very, very funny play, I highly recommend a night of Black Comedy to witness the ADC’s next generation excel in their very first play. I would give this performance 4.5 stars if I could, it’s only detraction being that as a farce it was difficult to make the performance particularly layered or varied- but this is more the fault of the writing than those involved.

Warm, endearing and superbly portrayed, Black Comedy is highly deserving of all the praise I am sure it will receive.

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