“’Farce is dead’, I hear you say… When has it ever been more relevant?!”
Being in the presence of Wright Off, written and directed by Luke Haywood, on Saturday evening was nothing but an absolute pleasure. Two hours of belly ache from laughing too much, and gasping for breath whilst whispering “WHAT is going on?!” to my friends on either side of me, has never gone so quickly. As a theatre student, being inundated with so much politically-motivated theatre can get a little overbearing, so- despite the show providing a unique take on Arts Council funding- it was a breath of fresh air to be in a chaotic room of silliness and absurdity, with the freedom to laugh, sing, and dance along with the cast whenever I wanted.
The play’s narrative follows a self-proclaimed and ‘esteemed’ director, named Al Wright, on his journey of making theatre history. (Or trying to!) Hand-in-hand with his cast of mischievous misfits, he tries to put on two plays, in the same theatre, at the same time, with the same cast. Naturally, this happens to be on the same night that a member of the Arts Council pops by the see if the theatre company are still eligible for funding. It’s chaotic, ridiculous, hilarious, and just completely mad, but every audience member left the Alec Clegg Studio with a huge smile on their face.
Despite the cast being an insanely strong ensemble, both collectively and individually, my gut-instinct tells me that the play wouldn’t be the same without its leading man: Joe Kent-Walters. Carrying the show on his shoulders, he managed to comically time, and deliver, every single line impeccably, whilst playing two, albeit suspiciously similar, characters; I couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he was on stage. However, watching Tomas (Lewis Fraser) dance around the stage in his underwear, Lawrence (Spike Woodley) seeing stars in the dressing room, and Lucas (Ejiro Imiruaye) nearly die with shame whenever anyone mentioned the infamous ‘glockenspiel scene’, were moments that had me in stitches, also. (In the best kind of way.)
As with any comedy play, there were jokes that didn’t quite land, moments where the chaos was a little too chaotic, and times where props were in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, all of this paled in comparison to the bizarre, intelligent nature of the show, the acting ability of Wright Off‘s cast, and the elation in the audience after the show finished. (Indeed, with Spike Woodley’s iconic retrieval of the show’s toy axe, I was left questioning if that should have been a part of the script all along… Amazing.)
It would have been very easy for this kind of show to solely rely on its script, and its actors, to convincingly portray this narrative. However it seemed as though, amongst an abundance of other production elements, a lot of time, thought, and effort had gone in to the play’s set. (Designed by Ell Johnson.) The intricate complexity of the odds and ends that were scattered across the stage, from a miniture shopping trolley, all the way to a replica of the three-eyed fish from The Simpsons, were both hilarious and incredibly effective at mirroring what was happening on stage. Often, I found my eyes drifting to see what was at the bottom of all of the different piles around the stage; some of which, I found just as funny as the jokes written into the script.
I am incredibly excited to see what Haywood writes and directs next, as well as what the cast get up to in the near future; something tells me that Saturday evening won’t be the last I see of them in this style!
Words by Morgan Hartley.