Friday, 21 October 2011

Farce Anyone? Not for me, thanks.

A light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect.  (

I think I'd better give up, and let yesterday's farce be the last one for me in this lifetime.  I just don't get it. While everyone else was practically rolling in the aisles, wetting themselves, I sat there, like the proverbial wet weekend in November, hard pushed to break into a tentative smile.

We went to the Theatre yesterday.
"One Man, Two Guvnors" has played to full houses and rave reviews at the National Theatre,  has toured the country equally successfully, and is about to open in London's West End.

Vaudeville discovered alive and well and living uproariously in  Richard Bean's terrific 1960s revamp of Goldoni's much-loved commedia dell'arte farce "A Servant Of Two Masters", directed by Nicholas Hytner. (To paraphrase The Guardian.)

Surely, I must be forgiven for giving such a highly praised production of a farce one more go. Surely, I'd get it this time?

The play is full of physical comedy which has been painstakingly choreographed and timed. In the opening moments of the show James Corden, star of The History Boys and Gavin and Stacey, somersaults over an armchair and by the final curtain he has punched himself in the face with a dustbin lid and caught his own nose in a mousetrap.

There is lots of interaction with the audience, ad-libbing and improvisation. Cordon is a genius at thinking on his feet, although he corpsed and dried up at one point and two fellow actors rushed on stage at the same time in an attempt to rescue him; only one of them was meant to be on, which only increased the general hilarity.

While I can appreciate the professionalism of the production, the physical and mental agility and all-round talent of the performers, the intelligently designed and very simple set, the comedy itself leaves me cold. Sorry, slapstick is not for me, a fact of life I will have to accept.

We went on the Culture Coach from Valley's End, a four hour roundtrip.
During the performance two chaps from the audience were dragged on stage to 'help' shift a trunk, one of the two was in clerical garb. It so happened that two of our number came across these two men during the interval and started a conversation with them. They learned that both men work for a catholic charity which helps to feed and house Colombian street children (honestly, no con, they had their credentials and could point to a tv programme about their work). They mentioned that the current financial climate means that donations are drying up and instead of feeding 600 children a week, their reduced means only allow them to care for 300 children. Our kind-hearted village ladies therefore decided to have a whip-round on the coach back to Valley's End. Everybody contributed.

Photos from various sources


  1. Farce isn't for me, either, and sitting there pretending to smile, one looks such a wet blanket. A ridiculous moment can be very funny, but it's partly the unexpectedness - a whole evening of it is painful.

  2. Hello:
    We are delighted to know that at least the Colombian street children will, in some small way, benefit from the generosity of those on the Culture Coach on what, most certainly for us, sounds to have been the kind of outing and play of which nightmares are made. Do be assured, you are not alone in finding little of entertainment in such farce.

    Furthermore, we must confess to never truly enjoying the Shakespeare comedies which, philistines that we most likely are, never seem to us hilariously funny. Give us Hamlet any day!!

  3. I am 40 years old and have yet to even experience attending the theatre/play/comedy act and sit back a watch anything that may amuse me. One day maybe... Until then, it's been Thomas the Train Shows, Transformers, and the Twilight series with my daughters.

    I so enjoyed your read, as I read, I can picture you, sitting there, looking.....


  4. I just love that story about the charity and how you've all contributed. Warms the heart.

    Now, I'm not a 'farce-fan' either. In the Netherlands it is called a 'klucht'. In the 70's and 80's farces often were shown on television (all thanks to John Lanting who used mostly British plays and turned them into Dutch 'kluchten'). Everybody, but me, in stitches. Also, Andre van Duin, famous Dutch comedian; I sometimes feel like I'm the only one who just doesn't think he's funny.
    But then again I think 'Gavin and Stacey' is very funny and hubs just doesn't get it at all. So everything is balanced out ;-)

  5. I agree. If you have to hit me over the head with it, I just feel hit over the head. I prefer subtle, studied irony. ~Mary

  6. I'm afraid if it makes me laugh, it makes me laugh, and that includes a good farce.

  7. I think farce is mostly a man's thing. Certainly slapstick is.
    I wouldn't watch Fawlty Towers when it was first on TV. My father and brothers loved it. Only after I moved to Alberta 10 years ago did I laugh at it, and that might have just been homesickness.
    You are not alone, for sure.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  8. I know what you mean about farce. I don't even bother usually although I seem to remember that Michael Fray's "Noises off" was very funny - but then he is a very clever playwright. I'm glad everyone chipped in to the charity. It is sad how voluntary sector is suffering. We don't seem to hear much these days about the "big society" - wonder why?????

  9. oh i think i would be all over audience interaction in live shows too...very cool...

  10. I understand. I will rent a video and be gasping for breath as I laugh while my wife looks at me wondering what is going on. She just doesn't get it. So I have to watch the occasional chic flick with her. Jim

  11. There is no better comedy than slap stick comedy it wins hands down in my book :-).

  12. so their was a rather un-farce-like result. Lovely-

    Aloha from Waikiki;

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >


  13. Well, Friko, I do like happy endings, and think that your coach group's contribution to the unanticipated news of a very good cause does fall into the better endings column.

    Gosh, what if anything, is the next destination of the Culture Coach?

    I think that you contributed to contemporary culture with this post.


  14. I avoid all slapstick and yuck yuck comedy. It always makes me feel inadequate as, like you, I'm the only one who doesn't get it. Jerry Lewis? I'd run a mile in the other direction.
    You and your Culture Coach travel companions probably lifted the morale of those two charity workers.

  15. I think I would have been sitting there glum as well. As one commenter said, it's the unexpected that is comical, not the overly dramatized fake-ness that I see as farce. I love to laugh, but not at someone's expense, and it always seems to me that making someone look really stupid, is almost embarrassing (I'm embarrassed for them!) not funny! Not a lover of farce or slapstick!

  16. I don't like slapstick either.
    I can't think that pain is funny.

  17. I like wittiness ... get bored by physical comedy.

    Good for you lot on the bus though.

  18. Hi Friko,its really good to know about the theatre drama,good work.

  19. I agree about slapstick. It makes me uncomfortable. I love the end of your story though.

  20. Slapstick is not my cup of tea, either, Friko. It’s just nonsense. I had the similar experience. I couldn’t laugh at all, felt uncomfortable or even disgusting, but I was surprised that the people enjoying looked one with the performance. I like a comedy with good laughs and pathos toward the end. You ended the writing by making us feel better.


  21. I have no appreciation of slapstick comedy, either. It always just comes across as infantile to me. The impromptu collection for the street children's charity was a high point!

  22. Personally, I DO NOT get Farce. What is so funny about over-done? What are those people peeing themselves over? I don't get it.

    Almost everyone kills themselves over slapstick and I just can't suffer these shows. After you are 5, shouldn't it be outgrown?

  23. Guess you're not a Ponty Python fan, then. But I hear ya' -- farce can be funny, but if it's not done well, it can seem pretty stupid. Btw, I LOVE your showerhead!

  24. Oh funny you should write this, Friko, as I was debating the same topic for a blog post myself. Farce is HUGE in Newfoundland. I find myself a prune-faced humourless old biddy, surrounded by thigh slapping hilarity at these "performances".
    Every single one (I count 8 I've been at, under pressure) has included a man with balloons under his sweater pretending he's a grotesque female. Oh, yes, I forgot those high heels he teeters on and the short skirts. The audience falls out of their seats in uproarious approval.
    No more I say. I feel a migraine coming on.

  25. either slap stick works or it does not and is uncomfy to get through. that's the risk of getting on stage.
    some great social commentary was done by charlie chaplin's slapstick, but, well, that's not what you saw, i get that:)
    nose in a mousetrap, yikes...

  26. You have many who agree with you...I personally find slapstick tiresome from the word go...and rather juvenile. But then, what passes for "humor" these days makes me wonder where the human race is headed...It is usually at the expense of someone.

  27. I'm in the minority. I'm the one rolling around, unable to control my mirth while others look at me sideways to see what's so entertaining! Guess I've never moved on from Charlie Chaplin.
    Good on you and your fellow travellers for giving so generously.

  28. Depends on who's doing the farce. I adore the Pythons but there are many example of farce that leave me cold too.

  29. I don't get farce, either. Your postscript, however, is another matter. That, I love.

  30. I love slapstick but I've got to be in the mood for it. Maybe that's your problem Friko. Maybe a jigger or two of gin before the show will help? Get in the mood and all you know.

  31. My husband laughs at physical comedy. I'm bored, bored, bored.

  32. Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy - masters of slapstick but circus clowns leave me cold - and practical jokes I just don't understand.
    Good cause - sad that charity so often begins and stays at home.

  33. I love live theatre and slap-stick always gets me howling. That said, my favourite plays are dramas. I am going to a play this weekend. Yay! It is a murder/mystery.

  34. farce is also a comedy of errors, and not necessarily all about the vicar coming in and finding you with your trousers down

    Fawlty Towers was essentially a farce at heart

  35. I'm in a minority I know, but I found Fawlty Towers almost completely unfunny. I think a comedy with farcical elements, if well written and performed, can be funny, and a skilled comedian can do slapstick - the thing about a farce, though, is that's all there is to it, there isn't a balancing element. A pantomime, for example, usually has slapstick scenes, but they are just a part of it and, if done well, are funny - but are aimed at children in any case to a large extent, and children love visual humour.

  36. I hate when I just don't get it, which happens more and more often as I age. I'm with you on the farce thing, get a bit wearing after a while :-)


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