‘Black Comedy’, a one-act play written by Peter Shaffer and directed in this production by Alasdair Baird, follows the domestic life of struggling artist Brindsley Miller and his soon to be wife, Carol. They are throwing a party in order to impress Carol’s father and the millionaire Georg Bamberger. Before the party begins, Brindsley “borrows” furniture from his neighbour Harold in order to furnish the flat to a standard that will impress everyone. However, a fuse blows just as they are about to start the festivities, leaving everyone in complete darkness with only the audience able to see what’s happening. When Harold takes refuge in Brindsley’s apartment, Brindsley has to hide the fact that he has taken his furniture and it is clear that the rest of the play will be full of chaos and funny surprises.
At the start of the play, all the audience sees is darkness, but it soon becomes apparent that when the characters see light, then we see darkness and vice versa. This creates a very comic aspect to the play; when the light goes out on the actors on stage, we are the only ones left that can see what is actually going on. This immaculate concept of reverse lighting was an element of the play I found to be extremely effective.
All character performances were exceptional. When trying to portray that you are living in darkness, it can be difficult to remember that you’re not able to see, and yet all the actors were able to stay in character. They were also seemingly fluent in British farce, which made the play even more hysterical.
Three quarters of the way through the act – when you’d think you couldn’t possibly laugh anymore – Miss Furnival, a sober, stiff, middle-aged woman, passes out from drinking too much. The actress playing Miss Furnival perfectly portrayed a drunken woman who does not usually partake in drinking – a feat that so often falls into absurdity beyond even theatrical suspension of belief – again making the audience heave over in unstoppable laughter.
I was practically sitting on the edge of my seat when the fashionable Clea entered the scene. The night had already been filled with unexpected visitors and unplanned problems, but it took an entirely different turn when Clea – Brindsley’s ex – walked in. Again, having some familiarity with the play’s style at this point, the audience naturally waits for things to go wrong. The unexpected nature of this play is evident from the moment the fuse blows at the very beginning of the play, ensuring that the audience knows this will be a night to remember for Brindsley and all the other characters. This St Andrews production was effective in following through with the wit and potential of this brilliant script.
The play had an exceptional storyline with just the right amount of sass and bawdy humour, which, when coupled with high-class character execution by the cast, made it a very memorable performance.
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