Where the stage’s darkness is ignited by its characters’ glow

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The cast and crew of Black Comedy pose for a promotional photograph

Right from the very first second of the play, Brindsley, played by Matthew Lansdell, and Carol, played by Elearnor Burke, succeeded to capture the audience’s engagement. In the dark, the couple used their charming voices to lead everybody through the background of the play, which promised a volume of intensity and unexpected humour to come.

This was also the moment when I realized that Black Comedy here does not necessarily focus on the painful subject of dark matters, but rather the figurative meaning of light. That is, the characters were placed in an unlit background – they could not see what the audience could. I was also fascinated by the play’s technical approach. They used lighting to indicate that when the stage was black, the characters could see each other and when the stage was lit, only the audience could see the interaction among them. The role of the technician here was thus extremely important as he provided cues for the settings of the performance where the plot depended heavily upon. Undoubtedly, the lighting was well executed.

The cast and crew of Black Comedy pose for a promotional photograph
The cast and crew of Black Comedy pose for a promotional photograph

Back to the development of the play, the graceful character of Miss Furnival – portrayed by Mirrhyn Stephen, walked onstage and immediately brought a new wind to the audience. Her costume and gesture were flawless – for a second I could not believe it that was a teenager playing an elderly. Then came the demanding Colonel Melkeet, the father of Carol, played by Peter Simpson. The characters of Miss Furnival and the Colonel provided a fun contrast as one was fearful and the other was headstrong, respectively. Indeed, all other characters in the play could be portrayed on the two far ends of the spectrum. While Brindsley was cunning, his neighbor Harold was candid. Carol, compared to Brindsley’s secretive girlfriend, Clea, was more ambitious and edgy. Then we have the pair of Schuppanzigh, a diligent German immigrant, and Gerog, a respectable millionaire. Every single one of the cast coloured the play with their distinctive personality.

The one thing that I admired about the actors was their enthusiasm. Throughout the play, they managed to stay avid and dedicated. However, this also brought up the issue of balance for Black Comedy. The atmosphere stayed intense throughout and hence, the audience would have benefitted from a lighter ambiance from time to time. It’s also worth acknowledging that a pause is necessary when the attendees laugh as any lines spoken simultaneously will not be clearly heard. Apart from that, I found the acting to be wonderful. The actors accomplished two things. First, they made the performance easy to follow. Second, they turned a simple daily life setting into a whimsical scene, which actually is a much more challenging task that it appears to be.

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In Black Comedy, most of the humour came from the fact that the characters did things behind each other’s back. Though the element of darkness impacted on the sense of humour significantly, it played an even greater role in shaping Black Comedy’s theme of the human comfort zone. When encountering darkness, the actors turned into more genuine version of themselves. For example, when facing the Colonel under the brightness of the candle, Brindsley tried to put on a trustworthy and impressive mask. On the other hand, while dealing with his mistress Clea in the dark bedroom, Brindsley turned into his usual facade. Harold, the cool and laid-back gentleman that one would come across in the dark, proved to be rather obsessive with his valuable collection in sunlight. Amidst all the complexities and drama of the situation, the innocent electrician Schuppanzigh turned out to be the problem-solver. By ending the blackout and giving the other characters the gift of light, he determined to bring light to the truth and bring darkness to the lies.

Overall, Black Comedy was beyond expectation. I was mesmerized by the creativity and the ambition of the entire cast and crew.

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