City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Rules of Comedy

By Lorraine McCann - Posted on 15 August 2007

Show details
Arkle Theatre Company
Running time: 
Lorna Slater (director)

What do custard pies, rubber chickens and things happening
in threes all have in common? Well, according to playwright Peter Bloedel,
they’re all inherently funny. And to test this hypothesis, what better than to
shoehorn them into one of the dourest, most depressing scenes in the whole of
theatre – the final scene of Hamlet? Heh heh, a fiendish test indeed!

“The Rules of Comedy” is a show in three parts. In the first
part, two elegantly attired narrators explain to the audience just what the
rules of comedy are, and they include such timeless gems as people almost hitting
each other whilst carrying a plank, taking metaphors literally and various
forms of food abuse (specifically, lettuces). I found this the most
exhilarating part of the show, with dry-as-dust narration being cutely
counterpointed by a lovely troupe of energetic and engaging performers. Here, I
think Lorna Slater’s clever direction was at its best, handling a dizzying
array of vignettes with neat blocking and some inspired musical accompaniment.

Perhaps it’s in the second part that the energy level dips,
as we receive a fairly joke-free “recap” on the final scene from “Hamlet”. I
suppose it’s necessary, given that not everyone will remember the scene in
sufficient detail, but I did feel it could have benefited from being a little
more swiftly expedited.

In the third section – in which the rules from the first
section are applied to the text from the second section – things pick up
again. A running gag involving a stunt actor is hilarious, as are several
visual jokes that I can’t possibly detail here in case I ruin the effect for
future audiences. Overall, highly enjoyable.