Pros: Crazy and a bit chaotic, there is a lot going on. Clearly defined characters are well performed by the whole cast. Great use of the small performance space.
Cons: The humour falls flat and the comic timing needs to be worked on. Although it would benefit from fewer scenes, the plot is a little predictable but enjoyable none the less.
Nobody’s Business is a situational comedy set in a low rent business centre run by Howard, a bumbling, diffident, dog lover and his “concierge” Sybil. When a charming but devious entrepreneur, Hugo, arrives to set up his business extracting money from the European Fund, all sorts of mayhem ensues. Inventors are paraded through the office with crazy ideas and even crazier behaviour and we meet Hugo’s long suffering girlfriend, Imogen, whose artistic bent belies her intelligence and business acumen. Somehow, in all the madness and machinations, Sybil becomes a director in the dummy business and contrives with Imogen to whip the funding out from under Hugo’s feet to turn the crazy invention into a successful business venture.
Nobody’s Business is an upbeat production with lots of movement, which at times feels a little over-used, in particular with the many entrances and exits. Musical interludes and cheesy dance sequences punctuate the flow and the sound and lighting are commendably apt in such a small theatre space. The characters, though a little clichéd, are likeable and well defined. Sybil is the star of the show – Katy Manning plays this role with enormous energy and flourish, appropriate to the style of comic writing. Manning’s diminutive stature does not hinder her from filling the stage with personality and charm. Tristan Beint is convincing as the desperate, slightly sleazy Hugo, his every word delivered with credible character. Claire Jeater and Stephen Oswald add contrast as the more altruistic Imogen and Howard and Jeremy Drakes stirs up the farcical action as the various inventors.
This style of old school, situational comedy is reminiscent of the work of Alan Ayckbourn and there are some real strengths in the writing and direction involved in this production. The success of situation comedy relies almost entirely on comic timing – delivery of every line, facial expression and movement is intrinsic to how much comedic impact it has. This production has bundles of potential but sadly fell entirely short of the mark. I wonder if the small audience size contributed to these difficulties: after all, this type of humour may not be everyone’s cup of tea. In preview, a small audience may also inhibit the production team’s ability to read their response, meaning the opportunity for chuckle-inducing direction is missed. I could hear there were gags there but it all felt very flat, I wanted to laugh but it just never came. That said, part of me enjoyed Nobody’s Business and the inoffensive, non-confrontational feminism and political comment that underpin it.
Although I commend the risk the theatre have taken by situating the audience on three sides of the stage, I do wonder how well it would have worked had the theatre been full. It’s not easy to play to three sides of the stage and it adds unnecessary complexity to a tiny theatre space. Fair play to the King’s Head for mixing it up a bit – it’s always a pleasure to pay them a visit, particularly on a quiet weeknight when you can grab a table in the bar.
Author: Sylvia Freedman
Director: John Adams
Designer: Jamie Simmons
Lighting Design: Sherry Coenen
Booking until: 24th October 2015
Booking link: https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873536938/events?TSLVq=18944c97-d727-4dae-aa03-2e0c15418cf7&TSLVp=9369b439-9395-44ce-99d4-3197e699642f&TSLVts=1445347094&TSLVc=ticketsolve&TSLVe=kingsheadtheatre&TSLVrt=Safetynet&TSLVh=92e7fbd19554a321efb308475c6e5f73