This term Cranleigh Drama presented us with two crowd-pleasing productions that had the audience riding wave upon wave of laughter, Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer and The Musicians By OC Patrick Marber. The former, directed by Emily Mcghee, is where I will focus my attention.
Despite COVID-19 Cranleigh has managed to beat the odds and put on a production. In spite of their Thursday night performance being cancelled due to sickness they managed to forge four superb viewings, seating around 450 of their students in year group bubbles night upon night. Peter Shaffer is perhaps most acclaimed for his better-known plays Equus and Amadeus, which won Tony Awards and were later adapted to the big screen.
Unlike these complex philosophical dramas, Black Comedy is a straightforward farce which buzzes with an abundance of clever comic spark. Throughout the play we see struggling sculptor Brindsley Miller (Freddy M.) and his fiancé, Carol (Amy W- F.), having a party with the aim of impressing Carol’s pompous and conservative father, Colonel Melkett (Archie P.), and rich collector Georg Bamberger (Deshawn G.), in the hopes that he might purchase some of Brindsley’s sculptures. Without permission, they have “borrowed” the furniture and effects of their fussy neighbour, Harriet (Raya A.), to make their own flat more presentable. However just before the guests arrive, the main fuse blows in the house, plunging the flat into darkness. What follows is a frantic farce with mistaken identities, unexpected visitors, and surprises lurking in every dark corner. Only the audience can see the action that takes place in the darkness. As you might expect, the results are chaotic, disastrous and are guaranteed to leave you in stitches.
The show was such a success due to the cast’s outstanding talent. Freddy’s portrayal of Brindsley Miller was superb in his endearing stage presence making Miller seemingly likeable, which increases the audience’s hope for him to have a successful evening that makes us cheer for him throughout. Amy delivered a stellar performance of Carol transforming her native Australian accent into an excellent clipped RP accent. She really encapsulates the ditsy debutante by her exaggerated mannerisms and speech, and she was without question a star in this performance. Brindsley’s rumpled hair and Carol’s smeared mascara is a palpable testimony to the actors intense physical efforts throughout the performance. This review could not pass without mention of a stellar turn by Kiera R. as Miss Furnival, a remarkably detailed and witty portrayal of an old woman that had the audience in stitches. The intricacy and precision of the performance of all of the actors was incredible and swept us along in this incredibly difficult genre.
Behind these great actors are, of course, a talented production and design team, led by Mr Peter Humphreys, that cannot go unmentioned. The bulk of the humor relies heavily upon the reverse lighting and the comedy already built into the premise of characters bumbling around in the dark. The constant switching between on and off to coincide the speed of lighting and blowing out a match not only adhered to the farcical elements of the play creating a flurry of laughter from the audience, but also demonstrated the tech teams incredible skill carrying out such a task, and integration into the creative process as a whole.
Something that is incredibly pleasing to note is the overwhelming presence of new students in the cast of the play: of the eight actors on stage, five have joined the School in the last year.