ABBIE SAUNDERS thinks murder is funny. But only in the context of black comedy.

abbie saunders black comedy Christ's College Comedy Joe Orton mother murder

Yusuf Hameid Theatre – Christ’s, 25th-29th January (except 26th), 7.30 pm, £4-6?

Directed by Oliver Marsh


Until CADS’ production of Loot, I never knew that mass-murder, money, and mourning could be so tear-inducingly funny. An audience of only 12 prophesied a depressingly boring evening, and “I definitely pulled the short straw…” ran through my head a few times before the start. Little did I suspect the sheer volume of laughter these cads could elicit from our meagre congregation.

The opening was cautious; some roles were occasionally over-acted, and the exaggerated renditions of Fay (Jennie King) and McLeavy (Tom Foxall) initially overshadowed their partners-in-laughter, Dennis and Hal – played by Skidmore and Clarke respectively. However, after a very short time the principals were able to get past the audience, or lack thereof, and ascend to the comic heights which they sustained for the duration. By the end of the first half, all actors were successfully lending themselves to their roles and Orton’s comic script.

Photographs by Will Seymour

Oliver Marsh’s direction comes into its own during Hal’s ‘brothel’ monologue, as Fay undresses the dead mother from behind a curtain (standard Orton). Fay throws the dead woman’s garments over the curtain, which continually land on Hal during a monologue highlighting his “career prospects” as a brothel manager. Marshy directorial flourishes like this did well to emphasise the darker elements of the comedy.

Harry Sheehan’s performance as Truscott grew more and more comic as the script and situation accelerates. The ‘interrogation’ scene, where McLeavy, Hal and Truscott ascend to joke-nirvana, produced physical shrieking from the audience, literally gasping for breath between the tears of laughter. Sheehan and Foxall occasionally stutter their scripts, but their impeccable comic performances make amends for all mishaps. Clarke rushes his lines a bit, muffling his diction, but generally all actors enunciate well and attack the script with vigour and animation.

Costumes too were looted for their full effect. Foxall’s ecclesiastical get-up and greying hair (standard Orton churchman) looked so authentic that he might even have been an ageing priest, and Moulder’s fluorescent coat added to the comedy of his accent and role. King looked stunning once she was dressed for mourning, but the black dress didn’t quite cut it as ‘authentic nurse-wear’ for me at the very opening of the play. A life-size dummy (well, its head was oversize,  but this is normal for Cambridge) gave a powerful, if reticent, performance as the mother’s corpse, and proved a positive addition to proceedings – comedy over cringe.

I think it’s a crying shame that there wasn’t a more substantial audience there for the opening night – this production is an absolute scream and comes highly-recommended.