On The Razzle

“There’s too much garbling of words and responding to events simply by looking around frowning.” Find out why HANNAH MIRSKY was charmed nevertheless.

hannah mirsky on the razzle Tom Stoppard

ADC Theatre, 7.45pm, 13th-17th November

Dir: Josh Simons

Farces are tricky. They have tangled plots and wordplay and slapstick, and the cast has to guide the audience through all this without boring or befuddling them. On the Razzle is not always good at this: there’s too much garbling of words and responding to events simply by looking around frowning.

But, perhaps appropriately for a freshers’ play, this production has a puppyish enthusiasm that means it is engaging even when the wordplay is lost, or the reactions are unconvincing. I was not necessarily splitting my sides laughing, but I was smiling nearly all the way through.

During the opening scene, I admit, I was pretty worried. This seemed like the kind of show that assumes things are funny if you say them loudly enough. The script is packed with puns, and this kind of delivery makes them very difficult to follow. However, with the introduction of Weinberl and Christopher, a pair of shop assistants played by Henry Jenkinson and Guy Clark, things begin to change.

The title of the play refers to the fact that these shop assistants, for a day, decide to pack up their work in a provincial grocery and go ‘on the razzle’ in Vienna. It’s a very good razzle – one acquires a wife, the other gets mistaken for a fiancee. They eat lobster and wear tartan. Jenkinson and Clark are impossible to dislike when they hug with excitement at events or stutter awkwardly while trying to talk their way out of things. You can’t help but smile. Other performances are marked by a similar kind of energy – Tania Clarke as a laddish servant, for example, or Gabriel Cagan as an apologetically libidinous coachman. Once the play gets underway, the enthusiasm is infectious. This is the opposite of snarky satirical comedy – it’s a reminder to embrace life and do silly things.

Near the end of the show, with the razzle now over, Weinberl and Christopher gigglingly repeat lines from earlier in the play, now in-jokes reminding them of their adventure. The audience can sympathise with their feelings. For both the characters and the onlookers, it has been messy and confusing, with a bit too much shouting, but ultimately just silly, energetic fun.