Corpus Lateshow, 9.30pm, until Sat 5th May
Sometimes in a Cambridge play you’ll have one of those magical nights in which the cast has absolutely no weak links. While certain performances stood out more than others, every performance in “Comedians” was excellent in its own way.
In the first act, four actors in particular stood out. Max Upton’s portrayal of Eddie Waters, a once-great comedian who has since turned to teaching stand-up classes, was a wonderful blend of intensity and understatement. It would have been easy to overplay the philosophical side of him but this was never the case. He provided the perfect foil for Ed Eustace’s incredible performance as the unhinged wannabe avant garde comedian Gethin Price. I suspect that most members of the audience this week will leave talking about his performance. Veering wildly from class clown to the quiet, intense kid in the corner no one wants to look directly in the eye, Eustace’s Price was a ball of energy, stealing the audience’s attention at every turn. His piece of stand-up in the second act is genuinely disturbing and I have to applaud the commitment with which Ed delivered it. I also feel that I should mention his “crazy eyes”, as they were the first thing I noted down, and will stay with you much longer than is comfortable.
As Bert Challoner, the talent scout from an agency which believes comedians should only deliver entertainment and jokes rather than philosophize on human nature, Stephen Bermingham excelled. He had the perfect amount of slickness while being quite sinister, an excellent portrayal of a small-minded businessman in the entertainment industry.
But, for me, the performance of the night came from Will Chappell as the put-upon school caretaker and the social club secretary. It seems ironic that one of the few characters who wasn’t an aspiring comedian should get the most laughs. As the caretaker, Will stole every scene he was in and I missed him a bit when he wasn’t on stage.
As for the rest of the cast, the second act gave them a chance to shine with each character performing his individual stand-up routine. Robbie Aird and Harry Michell were excellent as desperately unfunny and slightly awkward comedians who sacrifice their integrity for the chance of a contract, while Freddie Crossley and Pete Skidmore showed just the right amount of boiling resentment as brothers who are a comedic double-act.
“Comedians” wasn’t exactly the light comic relief to beat exams term blues I expected it to be. It seems that being funny is a serious business, requiring much introspection and explanation as to why a dirty limerick “hates women.” But if you’re looking for a night of thought-provoking theatre and powerful performances, then “Comedians” is for you.