City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Trumpets and Raspberries Review

By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 21 April 2008

Trumpets & Raspberries
Show Details
Royal Lyceum Theatre Company
Tony Cownie (director), Ken Harrison (set design)
Jimmy Chisholm (Tony Brodie), Kathryn Howden (Rosa Lamb), Kath Howden, Steven McNicoll, Keith Fleming (investigator), Antony Eden, Jo Freer, Mark McDonnell
Running time: 

Nothing can be trickier or likely to split opinion than comedy. For people who love The Office there's another camp who equally enjoys Carry On while the nightmare of sitting through a Bill Bailey stand-up is unadulterated joy for another. This latest Lyceum production is sure to incite mixed emotions from its audience as it explores ludicrously chaotic humour.

The play, originally called Clacson, Trombette e Pernacchi (Car Horns, Trumpets and Raspberries) was first staged in 1981. The plot is based on the events that surrounded the kidnap and assassination of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. But Dario Fo being an eccentric socialist writer wondered how people would respond if the kidnap was not of a politician but a captain of industry. Altering the real life events of Aldo Moro and bringing in the central Agnelli figure, owner of the Fiat factories, added a dynamic to the theme of terrorism and leads to riotous results in this updated version.

Rich industrialist and Fiat owner Sir John Lamb (Jimmy Chisholm) is disfigured when a terrorist gang attempts to kidnap him. Rescued unknowingly by lowly worker Tony Brodie from his plant, Lamb is abandoned with said labourer's jacket covering his body. Sent off for reconstructive surgery where Tony's estranged and bitter wife Rosa (Kathryn Howden) awaits his recovery, the rich man awakes with the poor man's face and amnesia which sets the stage for all manner of farcical confusion.

The Lyceum adeptly transports Fo's Italian farce to Edinburgh in 2011 when David Cameron is Prime Minister, Paris Hilton's a US senator, Menzies Campbell has been assassinated by extremists and Edinburgh's finished tram works lead to rolling tremors on a regular basis. Updating the issues at the core to reflect the targeted 21st century audience there are references to all manner of current issues on our political landscape peppered with local topics that ensure many a laugh echoes around the theatre.

The first 15 minutes lug with vagueness as to the overriding style and direction of the piece. Cue Jimmy Chisholm's Tony Brodie, whose monologue kick starts proceedings and laughter as he sets the tone beautifully. From the opening futuristic setting of a sterile operating theatre, complete with flat screen TV monitors, Ken Harrison's designs are simple and effective, the props becoming a central character to the progressing comedy and exploring the modern extent of surveillance.

Tony Cownie directs with a sense of playfulness, as confusion, corruption and conspiracy take centre stage and the play races along, diving into the ridiculous. The stellar cast seem to relish their roles and rise to the challenge of staging a form of theatre that is hard to pull off. They do.

Cownie's physicality is riotously mesmerizing, Howden's tart with a heart is dizzily endearing and Keith Fleming's inept investigator is unnervingly embarrassing. Using the scripts wave of fast gags and complete disregard to being taken seriously, this is pure entertainment that laughs at modern living. On this opening night there is some corpsing and ad-libbing which just leads to harder laughter from a genuinely amused crowd. The last 20 minutes almost suffer from the dragging uncertainty of the beginning but luckily right on the button it is turned around. Hopefully the creases will be ironed out as the run continues.

A truly enjoyable production though is how this will be remembered. You'll laugh at the end but it may be tinged with anger as we know those who don't deserve the best things in life are usually the ones that get it. Who would have thought a play exploring class, terrorism, medical advances, capital industry and strife would be so uproariously rewarding.

Runs until Sat 10 May

© Lindsay Corr April 2008