>the last coarse acting show by the stage club
>reviewed by matthew lyon
18 may 2002
Fortunately, it is fun to see good actors pretending to get things wrong, and this was not in short supply: Barry Woolhead displayed reliable comic timing as a myopic doctor, Justin Lee's hapless juvenile lead was so wooden you could see the grain, Terry Jaggers played an unlikely Good Fairy with all the frustration of the horribly miscast, and Cordelia Fernandez Lee embodied the stoicism of the basically competent stuck in a doomed production.
What all of these four (and several others) had in common was that the worlds of their respective coarse playlets remained real for them, and therefore they did not telegraph to the audience that they as Stage Club actors knew they were doing things wrongly. Thus the illusion of schadenfreude was maintained as we could feel for the plights of, if not the actors, then the oblivious characters they were playing. Other actors, however, seemed too eager to show that they were perfectly aware that they were doing things wrongly. Denise Marsh's supposedly premature interruption of a playlet to sell interval snacks was so knowingly overacted that one could never believe she had walked in early by accident, and Sharron Fletcher's supposedly sotto voce gibes at other actors were made so pointedly it was too obvious that the audience was intended to overhear. Such moments worked against the sense of realism - farcical, exaggerated and ludicrous, but realism nonetheless - that the plays managed at their best to sustain.
Still worse was the fact that it is not good fun to see bad actors pretending to get things wrong. It is, in fact, painful to see comic timing and physicality botched as badly as such actors are wont to do. Sadly there was rather too much of this going on, because while the Stage Club has a substantial core of competent and experienced performers, it just doesn't have the strength in depth to assure quality across five playlets, each with a cast of around ten.
>>'THE LAST COARSE ACTING SHOW was a hit and miss affair. Its coarseness came in two varieties: intended and unintentional, and the one was as funny as the other was off-putting'
Largely, but not entirely. Only in a very few places did the action on stage achieve the unbroken comic momentum the Stage Club can be capable of, but at least there were moments of genuine hilarity in all of the pieces. And while some conceits became rather repetitive, there was bound to be something around the corner as funny as, for example, Steve Armstrong's pretending to be a hat stand when he found he couldn't leave the set, Justin Lee's checking with the lighting operator that he could leave his spotlight despite being dead, Simon Hardy's baffled reaction upon noticing that his set had been hung upside-down, or, even better, Daniel Toyne's nonchalant attitude, as the wine-sozzled director of the piece, to the very same event.
And now for something completely different, and puzzling. Just as Phua Chu Kang could (before the government sent him for English lessons) render even the most banal of his lines hilarious by speaking them in exaggerated Singlish, so can we Brits get giggles from a line by delivering it in a British Comedy Regional Accent. There is a considerable range of these accents to choose from, with perennial favourites including the Thick Northerner, the Cheeky Cockney and the Belligerent Scot. Two questions struck me as I listened to several actors spouting CRAs for all they were worth: one, are British Comedy Regional Accents actually funny in the first place? and two, what on Earth are they doing in Singapore?
On the other hand, there were times when an accent of some kind was actually required by the script rather than being a superfluous superimposition; and Chris Fensom's delightfully twee Victorian old maid, as well as Simon Hardy's positively Etonian squadron leader, deserve particular credit for fitting the bill exactly.
Right - back
to something useful. All in all, THE LAST COARSE ACTING SHOW was a hit
and miss affair. Its coarseness came in two varieties: intended and unintentional,
and the one was as funny as the other was off-putting. But in another
respect, the production was wholly a success. In gathering together so
many of its members to perform, so many of its supporters to watch and
laugh, and in lampooning so much of its long history, this show was the
perfect way for a grand old but still frisky institution to bid farewell
to its favourite home.