Welcome Break

JOSH MARKS raves after a masterclass in the unpredictable and the downright hilarious.

ADC Alex MacKeith Ben Pope Comedy welcome break

Every single bloody quote is funny. Every line, every word, every raised-eyebrow. Every twist, every step, every action. The staging, the timing, the monumental line-learning. It’s all fantastic – even the poster is a work of art (those publicity fiends are at it again). The audience can’t keep their eyes away, and on stage, the actors love it too. Alex MacKeith and Ben Pope deserve every single plaudit that they receive.

Welcome Break is about movement at a service station; the characters admit it, and the audience are witness to it. Movement provides the framework for a play that challenges audience perception of motorway travel. But Welcome Break is not just about movement. Alex MacKeith has penned a masterpiece, where the “laugh-a-minute” cliché cannot even begin to do justice to the audience’s unremitting hysterics. Movement may be a key feature for the characters, but it’s every word that counts on stage, and every word is side-splittingly, ludicrously riotous.

Ella Clarke’s set is modest, perhaps, but effective, and masterfully employed. The play focuses not on production gimmicks, but on social interaction. The real beauty is that the interactions appear erratic and impulsive. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Ben Pope’s interchange with his coffee, or his rapport with his co-performer. He entertains with incredibly expressive delivery. Pope interacts with his audience both flirtatiously and inspiringly.  He’s just a little insane. The roof wasn’t so much raised as it was blasted into space.

But for all the talk, it would be foolish to ignore the non-verbal aspect. No spoilers, of course, but music and some utter folly give the audience an opportunity to regain its breath before the next barrage, which is at times vital. Amazingly, neither actor tires, and both negotiate the stage and the dialogue coolly and easily. The seeming spontaneity of the script is matched by the punchiness of its delivery.

Some scenes (can we call them scenes, or is it just one long sketch?) lack the energy of others, and some of the choreography could be tuned more finely, but it would be a harsh criticism to expect perfection throughout. The audience could be forgiven for expecting faultlessness; the actors provide an hour of near-perfect comedy.

But the greatest feature? Not one of the gags is predictable. The plot is secondary to the humour, but even the story is accompanied by a surprise twist. And as for the omnipresent cardboard box, it keeps us guessing throughout. It would be characteristic of a reviewer to end with some provocative and entertaining quote from the play, yet it’s impossible to do so, because every line is a punch-line, and every audience deserves to be blown away by this masterpiece.

Two stunning performers, a zany script, and non-stop chuckling. If you’re struggling for a laugh this term, this could just be your Welcome Break.