Harrow County School for Boys

Convergence - Summer Comedies

by Clive Anderson - from Gaytonian 1971

N. F. Simpson's A Resounding Tinkle, a loosely connected series of sketches of absurdity, is arranged around the lives of Mr. & Mrs. Bro Paradock.  It includes some plagiarised treatises on the techniques of humour and some biting social comment on the average suburbanite's ritualistic existence.

The mundane behaviour of the family Paradock is based upon conventions and premises patently ridiculous to the audience, and the 'message' which was to be inferred was that the conventions and premises upon which the Man-In-The-Audience's life is based are, to an impartial observer, probably just as stupid.  This 'message' simple enough was well conveyed -- though not well enough to judge some of the remarks of the audience as they queued for their interval cup of coffe with two lumps, please.

Bruce Boyd, with matted, busby-style hair-do throwing off clouds of white powder at the merest bang on the head, was excellent as Bro Paradock, never less foolish than the real clowns.  The two entertainers were employed for unexplained reasons to give a private show for Bro and his wife, ably played by Tricia Dearden. (She is more down to earth than her husband, that is, even more committed to the perverted logic of their lives.)  Geoffrey Perkins and Dave Hantman revelled in their parts as the two comedians.  They dubbed themselves as "metaphysically the Marx Brothers", which, ignoring metaphysics, was a fair assessment, especially as during the course of rehearsal, gags from Marx Brothers films had been incorporated into their dialogue.  They squeezed every drop of laughter out of the material, as did Penny Wellburn whose performance as Mrs. Mortice, a neighbour, could scarcely have been bettered.

The play is immediately recognisable as belonging to the Theatre of the Absurd, but despite this is entertaining throughout.  This production made full use of the play's potential to the credit of Gillian Spraggs' direction.

After the interval, we were back in the world of the average man, this time Gottlieb Biedermann, in Max Frisch's The Fireraisers.  Lest we forget that the play was originally written in German, the characters called each other Herr, Frau usw., though there is no reason to assume that the author wanted his play to be relevant only to Germany.

Stephen Shaw, who, it has been said, could inject a feeling of senility into Peter Pan, played the wretched, weak-willed (and aging) Biedermann with an odd pillow-shaped paunch and his own undoubted talent.  His confident gift for comedy shone throughout.  Biedermann, reluctant to face facts or take decisions outside the business sphere (where he is of course a tyrant) is both pathetic and unlovable.  Coralie Green as Mrs. (sic) Biedermann was a suitably muted foil to his laughable stupidity.  Matthew de Lange and Peter Webb as the two Fireraisers were a horrific twosome who would never get a bed in my house.  Matthew's snobbish accent scarcely faltered and it can be assured that the audience enjoyed his performance almost as much as he enjoyed his several on-stage meals.  (Confused by the references to the Marx Brothers in the previous play, Mr. Jack Rowley, writing in the Harrow Observer, was of the opinion that Matthew was displaying Marx Brother-style humour, but this startling inability to distinguish very different comedy styles will no doubt be remedied when Mr. Rowley sees his first Marx Brother film).

Peter Webb was a malevolent suave demon whose fixed smile and perpetually clenched teeth made him in no way inaudible.  Great stuff from him, too.

Interrupting the action at odd points were a chorus of Firemen, led by Howard Aiken.  they performed competently but the producers missed the opportunity to improve upon Herr Frisch's original script by not drastically reducing the length and number of their tedious speeches.

Apart from this the play is all good fun.  The house is burned down and the occupants consumed in the flames.  Change the scene -- Hell.  Back come all the characters with the play getting funnier and more mystifying.  Webb and de Lange are now Devil and vice-Devil respectively with the Biedermenn attempting to lodge an appeal against their conviction to Haedes.  Jacek Strauch appears brightly as an Angel/Policeman, Cris Tobin as a rather inhibited monkey, (having a PhD on earth) and the chorus arrive and extinguish Hell's fires.  Anna the maid (Caroline Heaton) is observed not to let a drop of a smile touch her lips, a highly significant fact which meant nothing to me.

The play ends with some fun with a dead parrot and a Tour-de-France-style exit by the Devils.  It has posed many questions but unfortunately failed to implant a desire to answer them.

An ambitious production this, for Philip Smith and David Williams to supervise and certainly well worth the effort.  However they could obviously have done with some extra time to iron out the scruffy mistakes which marred an otherwise enjoyable presentation.

return HOME