A new farce by Gregory Skulnick at the Old Red Lion.
Farce is very tricky to get just right. All the elements of comedy, improbable plot and situation with an exaggerated form of style and lightness in its drama, while being plentiful in its slapstick must, in varying degrees, be present. This essential cocktail form the basic ingredients for the highly successful plays of Dario FO, Moliere, Gogol and Chekhovian vaudevilles. The end result is highly enjoyable romps rooted in deeply political and/or social comment. Many Farce Plays of the past were used didactically as political treatise hidden, sometime barely, under the guise of light drama. Dario Fo being one of the front-runners for modern times.
Thankfully then, Gregory Skulnick’s premiere at the Old Red Lion, superbly directed by Hamish MacDougall, has all the required and desired elements of farce in abundance, while serving his disgust on the political hot potatoes of the day with an iron fist in a velvet of glove of a play! Injunctions, super-injunctions, prostitution, cash for questions, cash for meetings, extra marital affairs, grace and favour homes, expenses, salaries, theft, gutter journalism and window cleaning! Yes folks – we have the lot. Santa gets away lightly though, in this attack on commercialism, political correctness and the staggering pomposity of the higher-born.
A talented and spot-on cast make for a playful romp with a not-so-serious nod to the oh-so-very serious underlying themes. In order, intruder Tim Dewbury (Alistair) seems to be the glue in the story who happens to be able to keep track of everything going on, while being solid, flawed and kind, who is partnered with Izaak Cainer (Danny) the mentally lesser-blessed foil, playfully embodied with cheeky energy and an ultimate and delightful fingers up to them all. Our vile yet, as it happens here, somewhat lovable MP is the rather excellent Stephen Omer referenced in the programme as The Man. I can only say he is full-bloodied conservative with a capital C! Though this is not expressed on the play… Stephen Omer has every tick, annoying twist, greasy and slight-of-hand stereotypical annoyance, coupled with a butter-would-not-melt face that you would slap pre polling day door stepping. A super performance ably counterpointed by his spoilt bitch of a wife Carole Street (Beatrice) who inhabits that world where delusion is the only qualification required for existence. Out femme not-so-quite fetale is beautifully captured by Kate Craggs (Gloria) who treads triumphantly the tightrope of favours-for-money, cash for resulting pregnancy, Mother in need to single parent on the street with a child. Even in farce, and dare I say, essential in farce, here is the empathy turned into sympathy. Craggs wields a knife – metaphorically – with aplomb, then teases and tugs at the heartstrings in order to reverse and melt the hearts of hardened criminals, a politician, the wronged wife, a hapless lawyer and an audience to boot. Ed Sheridan (Mr Graver) and Alexander Pritchett (Julian) ring in further complications and ever-decreasing circles of absurdity with their solid renderings of the socially terrified legal council and the wide-boy hack from some lesser Red Top respectively.
All in all, a fascinating culmination of wrongs where, at the end of the day, no matter how repulsive the MP and his actions, how vile the wife and her manipulations, how sordid the casual prostitution and how deeply amoral is a burglar’s lot, it is, at the end of this particular day, the press that is found to be the most despicable. So all wrongs are evened and flatly floored by every guilty member of this highly charged, enjoyable and refreshingly new farce.