A Bagful Of Laughs.
This collection of comedies provided a superb evening's entertainment and really challenged the skills of the performers. I would suggest that the plays could be tackled by a team of directors, so splitting the work load. The draio Fo play, "The Virtuous Burglar" was performed on an upper box set stage whilst the Ayckbourne and Wood plays were performed on a lower stage. These plays are relatively simple to stage but very challenging to perform, requiring sophisticated timing and control to succeed in farce without overplaying it.
The play highlights the hypocracy of a respected member of the community who's plan to commit adultary is thwarted by a burglar at his home. Classic confusion is piled high as the husband desperately tries to avoid disclosure and the Grandfather clock provides a useful hiding place for burglar and lover alike. This piece makes an excellent extract for G.C.S.E. examination.
Note the moment the husband of the first husband's lover is revealed causing a truly tortuous explanation of events from the first husband who has already told his own wife that his lover is really married to the burglar! The real challenge of such a piece is to perform in front of an audience and handle the laughter which will be different from night to night. Students often want to perform a comedy, little realising how demanding it is, the chief problem being that weeks of performance kill the humour stone dead for the cast or the jokes are not funny until performed in front of a live audience.
Gosforth meets Councillor Mrs Pearce, guest of honour at the village fete. Ayckbourne exposes the hypocracy of middle class respectability with a collection that includes a bossy pub landlord, faded middle aged spinster, well meaning vicar and a priggish scoutmaster. Again the piece is incredibly demanding in terms of pace and physical control.
The climax of the play is a titanic struggle between man and tea urn with all sense of propriety disappearing fast in the face of utter chaos. The basic tennet of farce is that the central character struggles to keep order and control in the face of rapidly deteriorating circumstances. In the ensuing anarchy true nature is revealed and yet,in spite of the damage to their position, there is something of the tragic hero in the main character as they struggle to cope with a shattering experience.
Victoria Wood has written some superb pieces providing strong female roles. The above monologue entitled "Fattitude", is well worth adding to your collection . The visual humour provided by the overweight figure of the fitness instructor is central to the success of the piece and is increased by her total lack of self depreciation.
The other classic monologue is the Madeline-modelling. Vocally the actress has to work hard to achieve an appropriate pace without gabbling. This piece contains the very essence of Woods ludicrous yet very truthful humour. The pieces can be found in a collection entitled "Chunky".