A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

drama
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

BLACK COMEDY (article first published : 2006-03-12)

The term “black comedy” has nothing to do with colour or race but describes theatrical scenarios where humour is derived from situations that would normally be morbid or gloomy. There is much satire involved and – since it’s a comedy genre - someone always seriously loses out in the frenetic activity!

In his play, Black Comedy, Peter Shaffer has taken the term “black comedy” a step further and actually placed the major part of the play in the dark during a power blackout. (Ironically enough, our area was plunged into darkness as we left for theatre thereby entrenching the process!) The lighting is reversed in order for the audience to see these scenes. When the power is on, the stage is dark and when the lights are off, there is full lighting which cleverly dips when light comes from a cigarette lighter, match or torch.

Peter Shaffer’s tale tells of a penniless sculptor desperate to impress a would-be millionaire who is interested in his works. Living in a cheerless loft with a few scant pieces of furniture, he “borrows” elegant antique pieces and artefacts from his gay next-door neighbour without his knowledge and, along with his ditzy fiancče, sets out to impress the millionaire on his impending visit.

As the character exclaims, it turns out to be the worst evening of his life. Along the way he has to deal with his fiancče’s blustering military father, a seething ex-mistress, an electrician who is a wannabe art critic, the now seriously-miffed gay friend and a doddery old lady from a Baptist background who professes not to like alcohol!

Black Comedy was Peter Shaffer’s first big hit before he went on to produce an impressive list of plays which included Amadeus; The Private Ear and The Public Eye; The Royal Hunt of the Sun; Equus and Lettice and Lovage. His original production of Black Comedy starred Derek Jacobi, Maggie Smith and Albert Finney. Actress Lynn Redgrave made her Broadway debut in Black Comedy in a 1967 production which also starred Michael Crawford (the original star of Phantom of the Opera).

Black Comedy poses a considerable challenge on the cast because while they are temporarily without sight, they aren’t blind and this imposes a different kind of performance. The main protagonists have a better knowledge of the layout of the flat than the rest but even this is disturbed because of the borrowed furniture.

Allen Auld has done an excellent job of directing Peter Shaffer's farce and all kudos to the third-year Durban Institute of Technology Department of Drama Studies student cast for presenting consistently good performances and keeping the pace going. I was particularly impressed with the knockabout comedy between S’Dumo Mtshali in the main character of Brindsley and Mondli Mabaso as the fiancče’s father. Carol Melkett as the fiancče was highly amusing when she discovers Brindsley’s unfaithfulness and Luke O’Gorman was deliciously camp as the gay friend.

Nellie Ngcongo was a delightful Miss Furnival, clutching her animal handbag and disintegrating into a drunken stupor, and I liked Oyama Mbopa’s feisty electrician. Suiyen Valerie Smith as Brindsley’s ex-mistress is an actress to watch. Shaun Pearson, who played the deaf millionaire, takes the role of Brindsley in the second cast which performs on alternate nights.

Good to hear from the audience’s hilarious response that Peter Shaffer’s work is alive and well!

Black Comedy runs in The Courtyard Theatre, Mansfield Road, from March 11 to 18 (excluding Sunday) with performances at 19h00. Tickets R30 (R15 students and pensioners with cards). Book on 031 204 2532 or 031 204 2194 or tickets are available at the door. – Caroline Smart




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart