Farce

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Plays

Blinded by the Light

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Blinded by the Light is a manic black comedy, a madcap farce of drinking, smoking, Mormons, Catholics, transvestites and a saint all crammed into the tiny bedsit of the hapless Mick.

Mick’s priorities in life are finding new ways to call in sick for work, getting hold of some roach paper, and seeing Siobhan again: he needs nothing else to make him happy. But in a moment of idleness he lets a couple of evangelical Mormons into his bedsit; they are so delighted to have found a friendly ear, it seems unlikely they’ll ever leave. Despite Mick’s increasingly desperate attempts to shock them out of all hope of converting him, soon they are visiting three times a week – prompting his landlord to invite over Lily and Jack from the Legion of Mary, to bring him back into the Catholic fold. Mick can just about juggle his schedule of visiting evangelicals, until the moment that the petty criminals from upstairs present him with the preserved head of Saint Oliver Plunkett.

Bolger’s increasingly surreal comedy is a triumph of riotous humour and sharp observation. It was first produced in 1990 by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

Blue Murder

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Blue Murder is a two-part farce, energetic and impossibly self-referential, in which conservative suburbia and Whitehall collide with murders, porn stars and blackmailers, and a playwright trying to keep up with them all.

Subtitled ‘a play or two’, Blue Murder opens with ‘Foreign Bodies’ where swinging London meets bourgeois Shrewsbury and the drinks are laced with cyanide. As the son of the household struggles to write his first play, a murder story is offered to him on a plate. The second half, ‘A Game of Soldiers’, is a Whitehall farce taking place in St James's Palace. The same dramatist has brought his complete play to be censored but the Lord Chamberlain's Men have a few shameful secrets of their own to hide, including a priapic guardsman. Once the actors start to have tantrums about the size of their parts, the whole ridiculous structure begins to tumble.

Nichol’s play was first presented in 1995 at the Quakers Friars, Bristol.

Boom Bang-A-Bang

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It’s 1995, it’s the Eurovision Song Contest and Lulu’s ‘Boom Bang-a-Bang’ is the soundtrack to this exuberant conjuration of a Eurovision party that starts as camp and ends as farce, though there is a real power to Harvey’s discussion of sexuality.

Norman the lonely neighbour upstairs is trying every trick in the book to get himself invited to the party, but it is strictly for close friends only. In fact, it’s really just for people who knew Michael, Lee’s deceased boyfriend, as the couple used to host the best Eurovision parties and Lee wants to honour his memory. But most of his friends have opted for a rival party, and so Lee is left with his sister Wendy, the camp and irrepressible Steph, the gorgeous raver Roy, and the sparring couple Nick and Tanya. And the evening he had planned, full of kitsch, Bucks Fizz and douze points, goes astray amid the covert love affairs, accidental fires, memories and tears.

Boom Bang-A-Bang was first performed in 1995 at the Bush Theatre, London.

A Bucket of Eels

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A Bucket of Eels is a skilful contemporary farce. A bridegroom runs away on the eve of his marriage and unleashes a sequence of increasingly bizarre events.

First staged 1994 by the RSC as a 'production without décor', and set on Midsummer's night A Bucket of Eels is a modern play with a classic edge, exploring the making and breaking of a relationship and the absurd interventions by fate and nature that defines it.

Derek

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Derek is a short farce with the significance of social commentary, telling a story of waste and exploitation.

The aristocratic Biff is the proud possessor of an Eton education, a Sandhurst polishing, and a mental age of a ten-year-old. To his disgust, some people have pointed out that because of the latter he should not be made a Member of Parliament. So Biff needs a genius desperate enough to sell his brain, and finds Derek, a floor-sweeper who has just outsmarted a safe and stolen two million pounds.

The play is a comic but sharp critique of social stratifications which allow those with a privileged background to steal the life and self of those less fortunate, and send them to die in wars they don’t understand.

Derek was first performed in 1982 at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Youth Festival at The Other Place, Stratford Upon Avon.

Driving out a Devil

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

As a young university student in Munich, Bertolt Brecht was only a few years away from early success as a playwright when he wrote five one-acts. Of these plays, only one was performed in his lifetime, and none were published until after his death. They provide a retrospective look at Brecht before his evolution into the founder of epic theatre, demonstrating some of the tendencies that would mark his later work.

A young boy attempts to outwit the parents of a pretty girl in this short farce. It was neither produced nor published during the author’s lifetime.

Early Morning

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

At the beginning of the savage and satirical Early Morning, Bond asserts that, ‘The events of this play are true.’ The events of the play are starkly at odds with history as we know it: they show a world in which Queen Victoria is a lesbian, her sons Prince George and Prince Arthur are conjoined twins, and Disraeli is plotting her death. A man is put on trial for eating someone who pushed in front of him in a queue; Victoria arranges for Florence Nightingale to be married to George and then rapes her; Heaven turns out to be an eternity of cannibalism.

Bond’s iconoclastic rewriting of the Victorian monarchy peels apart humanity’s cruelty and consumption in a play that is by turns comic, shocking and macabre.

Early Morning was first performed privately in 1968. Banned by the Lord Chamberlain until the abolition of theatre censorship in 1968, it was revived as a full production at the Royal Court in 1969.

An Experienced Woman Gives Advice

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Set in the back yard of a block of flats on two Sunday mornings, An Experienced Woman Gives Advice is a sharply observed comic tale of experiences and innocence, insecurities and prejudices, all explored in Heggie’s trademark raw and clear style.

Bella has her routine: she likes to have Sunday mornings to herself in the garden and not even her boyfriend Kenny, a younger man, is allowed to disturb her. But the invasion of a series of strangers and a series of rumours about Kenny’s antics the night before turns her peace into farce, a hilarious muddle of seductions and deceptions, with something quite painful at the heart of it all.

An Experienced Woman Gives Advice premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 1995.

audio The Explorers Club

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

It's London, 1879, and the hapless members of the Explorers Club must confront their most lethal threat yet: the admission of a woman into their hermetically-sealed ranks. But the intrepid Phyllida Spotte-Hume turns out to be the least of their troubles, in this hilarious farce starring members of the original Broadway cast.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jack Cutmore-Scott, Carson Elrod, David Furr, John Getz, Martin Jarvis, David Krumholtz, Lorenzo Pisoni, Jennifer Westfeldt, Matthew Wolf

Directed by Kate McAll. Music composed and orchestrated by Laurence O'Keefe. Recordings produced by Mike Croiter and Laurence O'Keefe at Yellow Sound Lab for L.A. Theatre Works.

Includes a conversation with essayist, novelist, and cultural critic Eileen Pollack.

The Explorers Club is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

Featuring: Jack Cutmore-Scott, Carson Elrod, David Furr, John Getz, Martin Jarvis, David Krumholtz, Lorenzo Pisoni, Jennifer Westfeldt, Matthew Wolf

Feelgood

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Feelgood is an outrageously funny satire on modern politics and the fine art of spin.Alistair Beaton's wonderful play, part farce, part biting satire, is set in the plush seaside hotel of a party conference. As anti-capitalist riots rage in the streets below, sinister and obsessive press secretary Eddie and young speech-writing aide Paul are trying to finalise the PM's conference speech.

But Eddie's manipulative skills are to be tested far more by the scandal that George, dim-witted lord and close friend of the PM, gradually reveals – not helped by the arrival of Eddie's ex-wife and investigative journalist, Liz.

Described by The Times as 'a play for our time', Feelgood premiered at the Hampstead Theatre, London, in January 2001, in a production directed by Max Stafford Clark.

Derived from the Latin for ‘to stuff’, farce as genre or comic technique has seldom been absent from the popular or bourgeois stage. Rooted in ancient drama yet scorned by critics as vulgar, its physicality and ability to please or shock have placed it consistently at the core of popular entertainment. In the hands of skilled dramatists and performers it offers more than a purely mechanical formula for provoking instant laughter. Much modern farce derives from the ‘well-made play’ whose complex plotting, intricacy of planted detail, structural precision and liberal deployment of coincidence and oscillating action were pushed to comic extremes in the nineteenth-century farces of Labiche and those of Feydeau which span the two centuries. English farces, such as those of Pinero, are less risqué in tone and generally less frantically constructed. Although more reliant on eccentricity or playfulness of character and language, they share an enactment of accelerating social or sexual transgressions, creating opportunities for physical comedy, and generating an embarrassing or dangerous madness released in audience laughter. Rapid entrances, exits, concealments and chases contained within precise settings furnish immediate physical demonstration of social transgressions, complemented by transgressions of dress or costume and verbally by transgressive puns, double entendres and nonsense. Such orchestration demands exceptional skill and stamina of dramatist and performers, and the English theatre has enjoyed a strong tradition of farce ensemble acting companies such as were assembled for Pinero’s Royal Court farces (1880s), Ben Travers’ Aldwych Farces(1920s), the Whitehall Farces (1950s) staged by Brian Rix, and Ray Cooney’s Theatre of Comedy at the Shaftesbury (1980s). In the contemporary theatre, social and sexual restrictions have been relaxed, encouraging writers such as Joe Orton to expand the boundaries of comic material beyond the merely titillating for more trenchant purposes. Playwrights as diverse as Neil Simon, Alan Bennett, Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett, Edward Bond and Alan Ayckbourn have been attracted to farce as a way of renegotiating society’s organized structures and categories, or of expressing a contemporary sense of disorder and confusion. Michael Frayn has inherited the elegant cleverness of Feydeau, while Alan Bleasdale and Bill Morrison have raised desperate laughter from acute social and political problems. The genre remains remarkably healthy and disturbingly perceptive.

from Ronald W. Strange, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).