Shrewsbury School

Churchill's Hall House Play: 'Black Comedy'

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Des Hann's review of Churchill's house play was worth waiting for...

L-R: Laurence Jeffcoate & David Vaughan-Jackson; Rory Fraser; Will Heyes & Laurence Jeffcoate

Churchill’s Hall are in a fine vein of thespian form at the moment. One has only to cast an eye down the programme of a full school play to see how many of their number fill the key roles – so it is that they are able to boast a house play full of experienced actors. Of late they have turned their considerable talents to farce and, on the back of last year’s superb Noises Off the pressure was on to re-produce a play of high quality…which is exactly what they did!

Black Comedy was wonderfully done – a real fun-fest for the audience as the cast competed to produce the most outrageous characters and moments. The clever central ruse, of course, is that the play begins – in a modest bed-sit – in the dark (which is actually the light) then a few minutes later a fuse blows and, though the stage-lights come on, the characters are plunged into ‘darkness’; thus, we get to enjoy an hour of them groping (yes!) around in the dark.

Allessandro Rebecchi plays Brindsley the struggling artist, giving us a clinic in farcical timing and physical control as he struggles to return his camp neighbour’s furniture in the dark, ‘borrowed’ to impress a visiting art collector. He and current, middle-class girlfriend Carol, ‘dragged’ to worrying perfection by Laurence Jeffcoate, also wish to impress ‘Daddykins’ in order that they might have a chance of tying the knot. Everything crumbles around them, literally, as phones, tables, stools and future dreams get laid to waste. Daddy is a Colonel, the spectacular life-force that is Will Heyes, drawing heavily on his CCF (Combined Cadet and Farce?) training. Neighbours seek refuge, the dainty Harold played by Rory Fraser with top-drawer, camp chic – soft r’s and a softer handshake – and the initially uptight Miss Furnival who ends her self-declared temperance by getting not-so-quietly tight in the corner. David Vaughan-Jackson (once again) comes close to stealing the show with rising falsetto and sinking standards!

The play comes to a chaotic crescendo when former girlfriend, Clea – played by Guy Cabral full of black wig, mascara and self-righteous petulance – comes to wreak havoc and revenge. In the midst of this bedlam the nicely understated Jack Cooper arrives as the electrician and, in a wonderful 25 second cameo, Richard Hudson, as the art collector Bamberger, has his light extinguished by electrocution as the real lights are restored - a much more satisfactory ending than the original trap-door, deus-ex-hole-in-the-ground.

Churchill’s this year bid farewell to a number of very talented and experienced thesps but it is clear that the new ones have already risen to take their place!

Des Hann

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