Last night we saw the double bill at the Dolphin Theatre -- a very short piece by Chekhov, The Proposal, and a play by Peter Shaffer, Black Comedy.
The first is a three-hander and seemed to last for only about fifteen minutes (though it was said to be thirty, it seemed to race), after which, surprisingly, there was an interval. We both felt we would have preferred to run straight on. The brevity of the piece was actually what made it so forcefully and bleakly funny. Director Jo Williams had deliberately chosen a "pre-revolutionary translation" of Chekhov's text; ironically, it seemed less dated than the 1960s' play that followed. Actor Cameron Clark, who played Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov, seemed made of rubber and perfectly spineless, tackling the slapstick with relish.
Neither of us is a great fan of theatrical comedy, but if it's dry and intelligent enough, it's bearable.
The second piece, Black Comedy, was directed by Meredith Daniel. The three actors from the Chekhov were also in this one, backed by a further five cast members who were all good in their roles. The play was pretty ordinary farce, with a "clever" device (the action takes place in the dark when a fuse has blown, which means that light and dark are reversed throughout the play in order for the audience to be able to watch the action. This leads to a lot of deliberate stumbling and error that makes great demands on the actors -- how to look as if you can't see anything when of course you can).
The piece itself, apart from this device, has nothing surprising to offer, and the daft gay stereotype à la John Inman/Mr Humphries is very dated, as are many of the targeted topics, but then this is farce, and you don't expect it to be anything else.
The performance runs again next week from 8-11 July, and is a reasonably entertaining night out from a capable cast.