First performance in the new Nottingham New Theatre. A cast teaming with comedy stars from previous plays. The stakes were high. And Black Comedy smacked the nail on the head with tremendous success! It was a blindingly brilliant evening out!
This was a play of opposite realities: the audience’s darkness is the character’s light. Brinsdley and Carol enter Brinsdley’s apartment anticipating the arrival of Colonel Melkett, Carol’s father, and a noted art dealer, Georg Bamberger. Suddenly the lights go out (or rather, for us, the lights come up) and so begin the hilarities of ignorant stumbling and mistaken identities.
We giggled not only because they looked ridiculous – Emma Dearden’s (Carol) timidly stretching legs up the stairs achieved the first shout of laughter – but because their blindness was so realistic and perfectly excused. At first, when the couple entered in blackness, the audience seemed reluctant to laugh and there was the occasional mutter of confusion, however all became clear (so to speak) when they reacted to the sudden brightness.
The set (courtesy of Nat Mortimer and Louise Aaron) was superb and even had a bedroom built above. The whole thing was a spectacular mess of colour: bold ‘60s shades, matched by the costumes, dribbles of ‘modern art’ over the walls, and gaudy orange wallpaper you will never forget.
The casting was perfect. Freddie Garnett (Brinsdely), as our nervous hero, gives the most priceless expressions of melting anxiety. His comic slapstick was excellently timed and looked realistically painful, particularly when he fell down the stairs: we laughed and squirmed simultaneously. Dearden (Carol) was the perfect snobby-little-daddy’s-muffin-child and it was clear she really enjoyed the role – only enhancing our own enjoyment.
This was Tim Meredith’s (Colonel Melkett) first time in a New Theatre production and we will certainly be seeing a lot more of him; he made an ideal stock-image of the blistering father. Sam Greenwood (Harold Gorringe) was creepingly excellent. Although his accent had a tendency to slip occasionally, he created one of the most memorable characters. His early monologue about antiques was sadly undermined by the physical comedy behind him and wasn’t caught exactly.
Zoe Moulton (Clea) has a wonderful knack for comedy, yet the character of Clea was not as strongly defined as her fellows– who were very much ‘characters’ – making it a difficult part to work with. Zoe looked the part, with the best ‘60s costume, and if Clea’s character was not satisfactorily portrayed this was in no way down to her acting abilities.
The two Nicks, although both minor roles, gave ridiculously bizarre, beautifully ascented performances. Nick Slater’s (Schippanzigh) erotic interpretation of the sculptor and his final monologue were two of the most memorable highlights of the show! And Nick Jeffrey (Bamberger) gave an Oscar-award winning man-falling-down-stairs cry!
However, the real star of the show was Verity Spencer (Miss Furnival) giving us non-stop hilarity – whenever you glanced back at her you could do nothing but giggle. Her make-up was excellent (i.e. talcum powder didn’t shake off her to look like dandruff) and her facial expressions were of constant amusement. She was a little doddering old lady for the hour and 45 minutes we sat in that theatre!
The physical comedy was perfectly blocked, yet, and perhaps this was a restraint of the script, I found myself wanting more. There was definitely a general drop in energy at the quieter moments, especially when Clea announces herself to the group and whether this was first night jitters or not, there was a certain amount of line stumbling and cue mistakes.
However, these small lulls did not distract the audience, students and Grandparents alike, from having a thoroughly enjoyable evening! This was a brilliant performance and I am certain it will grow into an astonishingly spectacular performance as the week progresses.
Eve Wersocki Morris