Move Over Mrs Markham by Ray Cooney & John Chapman.Canberra Star Comedy Company at Belconnen Community Centre Theatre, June 13. Director: Roy Scamp. Season: Thursdays to Saturdays till June 22, 1996. Amateur.
This new theatre group (Canberra breeds them faster than bilbies!) "was formed as a result of the members' affection for comedy". Mrs Markham, they promise, is "So funny... that it hurts". In fact, their real interest is not comedy, but farce. Roy Scamp is on his third Ray Cooney play - "he finds them addictive". But I suppose to call themselves Canberra Star Farcical Company would not do.
They have the wit to note the dictionary definition of farce as "dramatic work meant merely to cause laughter", and so undermine any attempt on my behalf to question the relevance of highly sentimental upper middle class non-politically-correct British West End farce on the Canberra theatre scene. I can only ask, was it really funny?
For a first night amateur production it had its moments. In Act 2 there was a scene of genuine farce as what seemed to be several dozen different characters (this was because they all called themselves some other character's name and confusion reigned) appeared and disappeared in and out of six different entrances and exits at high speed and with great precision of timing. Generally the acting has the basics right and there were some strong moments of silence as a character tried to work out what was going on, came to a conclusion and then said entirely the wrong thing.
But it wasn't an "evening of continuous mirth" as the Company claimed it would be. For this to happen, Mrs Markham's very first entrance and line - wondering where her husband is - must be funny. Caricature - to the point of absurdity - of the upper middle class is required (Peter Benisch as Philip Markham was the only actor who came close), and of course this also needs the complete setting of the obscenely wealthy British ruling class (a friend working as a servant in the 1970's was once told to go to Harrod's to pick up a £10,000 dress for her mistress). This is possible in the West End of London, but is a little difficult for an amateur lower middle class company at Belconnen Community Centre.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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