It’s Christmas Eve, and two police officers are dispatched to notify an elderly couple that their daughter has died in an accident whilst driving home for the holiday. OK, that sounds extremely bleak and not the starting point for a comedy, but then black comedy and farce work so much better with a very dark core. So rest assured, from the moment our two officers are standing outside the front door arguing about whose turn it is to give the awful news, this show delivers up a whole lot of laughs. And thank heavens for that, because with a running time of over two hours those hard wooden chairs would have been a lot more uncomfortable if we hadn’t been enjoying ourselves so much.
All the correct elements are present in Anthony Neilson’s well-written farce that first saw life at the Royal Court. First and foremost are our two coppers, one dim-witted, the other slightly bullying, a double act of Joy Bowers and Arthur Glyndwr, displaying great chemistry with comic timing. Then there is the new parish vicar with a questionable taste in underwear, played with wonderful glee and a little heavenly anger by James Dart. Every farce needs a potty, doddery old lady, and here we have Julia Lacey who, if she hasn’t already, should really be cast in any remake of The Ladykillers. There is even a local vigilante, hunting out the local paedophiles, played rough and ready by Denise Rocard. To complete the package there should be at least one comic use of a police truncheon, although surely they did miss a trick by not having a “thud” sound effect as the unsuspecting victim receives a swift clout over the top of their head. Most important of all, there must be lots of misunderstandings and confusion over exactly who has or hasn’t died, together with slapstick attempts to hide a body or two.
There are brief moments when you wish they had cut the action back a bit; some of the shouting and screaming from the paedophile hunting vigilante is perhaps unnecessary, as are the ramblings of the elderly mother who lapses back to childhood. These scenes were maybe essential to focus on the social message the play originally intended, but when you are instead playing it as a full-on farce they confuse rather than add to the story. A little snip of that two-hour running time would not go amiss.
Above all else it’s fun, a damn lot of fun. With the action nearly all taking place within the front room of the elderly couple’s home, any problem of limited space is overcome, along with the impossibility for set changes. If the question is, did I laugh? did those around me laugh? then the answer is a resounding yes, the laughter flowed throughout.
The Kingston Theatre Company has resurrected a good script and turned it into a genuinely funny farce, and for that they should be applauded. Ram Jam Records, as the name would suggest, is first and foremost a music hub, but slowly they are moulding themselves into a fringe theatre venue in South West London’s Kingston. There may be a lot of work required to really become part of the fringe circuit, but if it continues to put on productions such as The Lying Kind, it is surely giving itself, and Kingston, a fantastic new outlet in an area that is currently missing such a place.
Written by: Anthony Neilson
Directed by: Erica Miller
Produced by: Joy Bowers & Ram Jam Records
Booking link: https://www.ramjamrecords.co.uk/theatre/
Booking until: 9 December 2019