Black Comedy at the ADC is utter farcical nonsense – in the most magnificent way possible. Extending beyond the script’s premise to provide a well-rounded show that, through committed energetic characterful performances, had the audience in stitches throughout.
Black Comedy is a one act play which is staged under a reversed lighting scheme: what is darkness for the characters onstage is light for the audience. Beginning in complete darkness, a few minutes in there is a short circuit, and the stage is illuminated to reveal the characters in a "blackout.". This simple premise means that the audience are given access to a world of mistaken identity, dramatic irony and slapstick as our protagonist Brindsey (Adam Mirksy) tries his very best to salvage the evening against all odds, in complete darkness.
As the lights closed on Shali Reddy’s elegant stage design, we are met by the voices of Carol (Dolores Carbonari) and Brindsley. Carbonari’s brilliant vocal work as Carol gave the show the jump start it needed and she really carried the show in the opening blackout. This energy was continued and amplified as the lights come up by Mirsky’s unflinching, unapologetic performance as the nervously energetic Brindsey. The physical comedy Mirsky gave to the show was unparalleled, in one section in particular, in which Brindsely is forced to move furniture into another room as quietly as possible in the dark, all the comic potential of the scene rested on his ability to perform physical comedy, which he did successfully.
Louis Norris characterisation of stern father-in-law vetern Colonel Melkett also really stood out. Before he even said a word, the combination of his costume and physicality already had the audience laughing. here were times in the show were all Norris had to do was make a well placed grunt or facial expression and he would be rewarded by raucous laughter from the audience – he had us in the palm of his hand and he worked the crowd magnificently well.
Of the rest of the cast, John Tothill’s Harold Gorringe really stood out. Despite the fact that he was thrust into a role which was, at its core an activity in stereotyping, Tothill still threw himself into the character, performing it honestly and unapologetically.
The only real criticism that can be had of Black Comedy is some of the lighting direction. For a show that is so dependent on accurate and well-cued lighting to function, it felt as though sometimes the brilliant acting was let down by poor tech and confusing lighting decisions. There were times in the play when the lights came up in the bedroom and came down in the living room which would have been normal in an ordinary production but was confusing under this shows premise. Furthermore the use of a torch was similarly confusing, not only did it blind the audience, it also, by the logic of the play should have been off to signify that it was on.
Most elements of this production were, however, imbued with a ridiculous farcical energy. If you enjoy slapstick, character comedy I would highly recommend.