Farce, a play in one or two acts which upsets reality by concocting absurd situations performed at a furious pace.[...] If certain characters should on no account meet, they must soon do so – often in a bedroom.’ – J.L. Styan
The British humour is something of a national institution, a thing of pride – It is an innate ability to see the funny side of any situation, imagine the worst of people and undermine anything positive which may occur, in short, it is an overriding feeling that we should probably just laugh at ourselves instead. The Orange Tree Theatre’s production of John Maddison Morton’s Three Farces demonstrates how deep the roots of our comic abilities run, it is a history lesson in funny, a cavernous shout of humour which is still echoing through all the best British comedy today.
The first play in the offering Slasher and Crasher is a wonderfully fast paced linguistic rollercoaster, a romantic thriller which revolves around the accusation of cowardice. David Oakes creates a wonderfully goofy and loveable hero who has as much backbone as a goose feather duvet. A complete contrast to his later suave and savvy Bagshaw (or was that Bradshaw?) together with Stuart Fox’s ‘runner not a fighter’ head of the Uxbridge anti-duelling club, the two named characters create a ludicrous plot aimed to demonstrate bravado which after much leaping, fighting and disagreement leaves us in the exact same position in which we started.
A Most Unwarrantable Intrusion again revolves around two men – one old and at home the other young and making himself at home. There is some lovely interchanges between Clive Francis a man trying to escape “agitation”, and the fabulous Edward Bennett whose bull in a china shop, fast thinking home wrecker with ulterior motives earned a round of applause for his brilliantly executed A-D speech. The final play of the evening Grimshaw, Bagshaw and Bradshaw was the weakest of the trio, but lived up to the confusion its title would suggest. A fast paced evening wound to a close rather than built to a crescendo but after the bombardment of the other two this is perhaps a little unsurprising.
Henry Bell’s high octane direction pays due diligence to the challenges and weight of the language, every word is heard, and every plot however sprawling is navigable, which is a real achievement. Mixing the old with the new, modern references, ironic glances, acknowledgment of the role of coincidence, and a scepticism from the female characters about their part as narrators and love-interests really gave the piece a 21st century dynamic. The inclusion of a heckler dispelling wandering minstrel, Daniel Cheyne, whose singing Master of Ceremonies beautifully stitched the evening together with simple melodies, was a lovely addition and helped ease in the oncoming nonsense.
An evening which achieves all that is expected of it, a great glimpse of plays which could have easily been consigned to the history books but instead brought an abundance of laughter. Three Farces is a an explosion of frolicking, fumbling and fabulously loud frivolity, an incomprehensibly complex tangle of words and deeds which was quite simply – adorable.
Three Farces Runs at the Richmond Orange Tree Theatre from 2 – 25th June for more information and to book tickets please click here