Preview: Ted Hill’s Quip Tease

TCS Reporter 27 April 2014

After a long and controversial history, on Monday 28th April 2014, and for the first time ever, Ted Hill’s Quip Tease will finally be brought to the stage in the form of a stand-up comedy show.

Many people said that it could never be done. Based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1867 novel The Quip Tease of Ted Hill, the much celebrated sequel to Crime and Punishment, the adaptation process has been very difficult from the start. With its complicated time structure, hyper-extended metaphors and dense prose style, this was a novel that many had deemed “unable to be converted into a stand-up show”.

Ever since its publication, there have been ill-advised attempts to bring the novel into another form of media. There were three plays, nine operas and fourteen interpretative dances before and during the First World War, one dance being so awful that an entire trench had to be closed due to lack of morale. Subsequent versions haven’t fared much better: the famously-botched 1975 film adaptation by Martin Scorsese ended in ignominy when Robert DeNiro, due to play all six main parts, stormed off set, declaring that the jokes were just “too funny and interesting” for him to deliver justly.

But now in 2014, six brave men have dared another crack at Dostoyevsky’s masterpiece. No one has yet tried to adapt the 1,459 page novel into a stand-up show, but the cast were confident that it could be cut down to a little over an hour. This was only the beginning however; there have since been inevitable challenges with translation and casting in particular. Most of the jokes are hilarious in their native Russian and when considered in relation to the Russian political context of the latter 19th century, but the six performers hope that not too much will be lost in translation. And in terms of casting, there was much controversy when Daniel Leigh, originally playing Ted Hill, was recast as Patrick Brooks. Leigh threatened to walk unless he was given the roles of Victor Herrero, Harry Wright and Chris Page as well, but fearing a repeat of the Scorsese/DeNiro fiasco, the directors were reluctant to comply. After much ketamine Leigh was pacified and agreed to only play the role of his namesake (Benedict Cumberbatch was then cast as Brooks). 

After all these trials and tribulations, the show will go on. Whether Page, Wright, Herrero, Leigh, Brooks/Cumberbatch and Hill have pulled it off, will remain to be seen.

Ted Hill’s Quip Tease will be on at Corpus Playroom on Monday 28th April at 9:30pm. Tickets are available here.