It’s hard to discover what Mr. Kolpert is all about without a deep delve. The King’s Head Theatre website is vague and general, with a hint of storyline though void of detail. The press release likewise and the programme totally barren. Therefore expect the unexpected must be the caveat and go with an open mind. A large and locked trunk, placed off-centre, forms the basis of what turns out to be a black comedy translated from German. Two couples at a dinner party, except there is no party to speak of and definitely no dinner prepared. Cue a bewildered pizza delivery boy and much talk of a dead body. Include lots of swearing and more than a little nudity for absolutely no reason whatever. Throw in a game of Botticelli and you have all the ingredients.
This play could be funny, except director Rachel Valentine Smith has made all the characters over-act, presumably to provide emphasis in a quest for laughs. Regrettably this strategy proves counter-productive and instead quickly becomes tedious. It’s hard to believe in any of these folks although occasionally that matters not in comedy. Indeed sometimes that is the very element that makes it work; John Cleese found perfection in Faulty Towers afterall, but here it falls a long way short. Damian Lynch as the temperance architect Bastian Mole who borders on schizophrenic, for instance, certainly lays on the violence and bad temperament well but chiefly in a shocking manner rather than humorously. Likewise, Ralf Droht (Edward Fulton), although more engagingly amusing, still somehow misses the mark. Both try hard, but appear hindered by heavy-handed direction. They are not helped either by a cumbersome script which relies on recycling the same few gags. You can only laugh so many times at a misunderstood telephone conversation about a take-away pizza order for example, otherwise the joke wears a bit thin, however much it is reinvented. Or does it? Perhaps I’m wrong about the script, for Mr Kolpert was afterall, well received Upstairs at the Royal Court in 2000 with Richard Wilson at the helm.
Violence and murder feature heavily as might be expected, but never with a wholesome sense of subtle macabre to turn this production truly black . The resulting combination of much projectile vomiting, thrown food and copious stage blood is pretty gruesome however, but makes for a very slippery stage during the second half, causing the cast a few slips but thankfully never a fall. My advice is not to sit in the front row with good clothes or nice shoes on and don’t even think about asking what’s in the trunk!
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By Gareth Richardson @BargainTheatre
15th July - 5th August 2012
King’s Head Theatre, London, N1.