Filling the Wednesday and Thursday night slots in the Freshers Drama Festival, ‘Black Comedy’ was a roaring success.
The play opens in darkness with Brindsley (Matthew Lansdell) and his fiancé Carol (Elearnor Burke) preparing for the arrival of Carol’s father and a millionaire art collector who is interested in Brindsley’s sculptures. Whilst in the dark the audience can see little but the actors’ outlines, however a few minutes in there is a blackout in Brindsley’s apartment building and the stage lights come up.
The plot of the play is enabled by the blackout for which the production’s technician Amaan Akhtar must be commended. Whenever a source of light was lit by one of the characters, the stage lights would dim, and when the source was extinguished the stage lights would brighten. This would mean Akhtar would have to be very observant and conscious of his cues, in which he cannot be faulted.
The physical comedy of the play was present from the moment the lights came up, sprung from the pretence that they were in the dark. Whilst there was the more obvious reactions such as squinting and fumbling around for bearings, the actors’ lack of eye contact with each other enforced the idea that they could not see each other and often added to the hilarity of the situation.
Director Rahul Srivastava put together a slick production and made good use of the Barron space. The set was appropriate for the mid 60’s and having the sofa centre stage, often seating the neighbours whilst Brindsley, Carol and Clea snuck around the edges, allowed for the characters to gravitate around the centre more naturally.
Lansdell’s performance was the backbone of the production, as he had to be likable, yet sleazy at the same time. He carried this off successfully with a self-depreciating charm. The dialogue that was delivered off-stage was a little stilted at times but not a major issue in holistic view of the play. A highlight of the production was the sequence in which Brindsley attempts to return Harold’s furniture without the others noticing. The humour came in his narrowly avoiding contact with a suspicious Colonel Melkett (Peter Simpson) whilst silently labouring under the weight of chairs. Whilst this was occurring the supporting characters were entertaining in their mix up of drinks, with Innes’ facial reactions particularly amusing.
Whilst the majority of Burke’s comedy came in the laughable affectation of Carol’s language, she nonetheless brought a grounding of reality to the ridiculous action of the play. And Peter Simpson’s stage presence and character physicality as Carol’s father had the audience howling with laughter on many occasions.
The cast and crew of Black Comedy put on a commendable production and are a sign of promising new talent in St Andrews.