Review: An Evening of Comedy Theatre

ANNA FAHY: “What we got were two fifteen minute plays that, quite frankly, just weren’t very funny.”

anglia ruskin Comedy Mumford

Wednesday 27th-Thursday 28th, 7.30, Anglia Ruskin Drama Studio, £6.

* and a half.

When you’re attending something that’s called itself ‘An Evening of Comedy Theatre’, it’s expected you’ll go with a few expectations, call yourself demanding, but that you might laugh. Unfortunately, Wednesday night’s event at Anglia Ruskin’s Drama Studio left these expectations unfulfilled. What we got were two fifteen minute plays that, quite frankly, just weren’t very funny.

On entering the play’s location we were greeted by a friendly group of ticket sellers, offering us home made cupcakes and Robinson’s Summer Fruits (always a winner) before letting us know that the night ‘would just be a little informal thing’. Enamoured by this attention and, frankly delicious, pre-play snacks, I was ready to settle down to a night of hard hitting humour. My slightly less easily pleased friend however, bore warning: ‘Maybe they’re already compensating…’

Wise as she is, this turned out to be the case. ‘An Evening of Comedy Theatre’ is the first performance run by Staged Imagination, a Drama group set up only a few months ago, so I want to tell you that I liked it, the acting was convincing, the staging innovative and the direction clear and effective. But, although those cupcakes were really damned good, I can’t tell you any of those things.

The first play, ‘Fourteen’, written by Alice Gerstenberg, saw Mrs Pringle, played by Augusta McKie, preparing to host a dinner party. With guests cancelling, accepting and then cancelling again, it was up to the butler, Dunham, played by John Parr, and Mrs Pringle’s daughter, Elaine (Alex Gagen), to ensure that Mrs Pringle had the perfect number of guests. Laughs were supposed to come from Mrs Pringle’s reaction to her guests’ cancellation. But they didn’t. And the dinner party’s attendance from a well known guest was supposed to be a hilarious twist. But it wasn’t. In addition to this somewhat dubious storyline, the audience was subjected to an outdated script, wooden acting and a stage that dwarfed the three-piece cast to such an extent that it seemed big enough to hold the entire 3567 members of So Solid Crew. That would have been a lot funnier.

The second play offered little more to brighten up the audience’s bemused demeanour, still yet to laugh. Credit must go to the two member cast, who did a better job at filling up the stage. However, otherwise, ‘A Matter of Husbands’, written by Ferenc Molner, suffered from all the same problems. The plot, in which a woman, attempting to confront a famous actress about her affair with her husband, is then persuaded that there’s nothing going on, could have had some comedic potential. However, what had the potential to be laugh-warranting one-liners from the actress, played by Nuvia Perez De Griffiths, were ruined by the wife’s (played by Natalie Stock) self-deprecating responses. I felt genuinely devastated for her and maybe Stock should be applauded for this, though the search for a shoulder to cry on isn’t really what you’re looking for in a comedy sketch. With more than a few incidents of the cast stumbling over their words, you weren’t at all convinced that the wife was being ‘skilfully misled’, as the blurb promised.

If its name hadn’t promised so much, maybe ‘An Evening of Comedy’ wouldn’t have been such a disappointment. Though Staged Imagination had only been rehearsing for a few weeks, the humourless scripts cannot be excused. So, let this be a warning to you. If ever you go to a play, gig, film screening or ‘comedy’ night, and the first things you see are homemade cupcakes, a selection of fruit based cordials and apologetic smiles, turn around. Turn around and run.