Comedy’s a funny thing. For every lover of Fawlty Towers there’s someone else passionate about My Family. The excitement generated by a new Will Ferrell film at the mulitplex for one person might be matched by the next’s anticipation of a Woody Allen retrospective screening nearby.
The Lyceum’s new production of Dario Fo’s Trumpets and Raspberries will no doubt incite mixed emotions in audiences over the coming weeks, as word of its madcap humour spreads.
The play opens in a futuristic operating theatre somewhere in Edinburgh in 2011, a time where David Cameron is Prime Minister and Menzies Campbell has been assassinated by extremists. The head of Fiat, Sir John Lamb, has been just been kidnapped, while factory worker Tony has been working on more than just his production line with a female friend in the back of a Cinquecento.
Following a car crash near Tony’s parking spot, we are introduced to a heavily bandaged man lying in his hospital bed. As surgeons, led by a deliriously OTT Professor (Steven McNicoll) busy around the body, background details start to be filled in by the patients “wife” (Kath Howden).
Rather than hit the ground running, the first ten minutes drag, with the audience still unsure what style the production is aiming for. The introduction of Jimmy Chisolm’s Tony is the boost the play needs, his buoyancy finally pitching the right tone for others to follow.
Recent Lyceum productions have played fast and loose with traditional storytelling, with Six Character’s in Search of an Author introducing key characters from outwith the proscenium arch. Trumpets reprises this trick, though I’ll not spoil it by telling exactly how.
From here it’s a bumpy ride, with confusion, collusion and corruption taking place in various quarters as the plot takes various leaps into the ridiculous.
If the first half is intent on setting the scene, the second runs with the premise, recalling various Ray Cooney farces in it’s execution.
One gripe is that the final 20 minutes seem tacked on, as if there was space to fill, and the drag of the opening scene returns to mute the ending. Maybe this will vanish as the run continues.
The cast rise admirably to the challenge of staging a form of theatre that, although never going out of style, has perhaps never exactly been in vogue. Much corpsing and ad-libbing was in evidence this opening night, something forgiven by an audience being carried along on a wave of fast gags and a script which makes no attempt to be taken seriously.
This is entertainment, pure and simple.
In a climate where the much discussed credit crisis threatens to halt spending on anything other than the bare necessities, and in a city where a new tram system threatens to cause grief to residents for the next few years (a topic mentioned more than once in Trumpets), an evening of out-and-out fun is to be welcomed.
Review by Jonathan Melville
Trumpets and Raspberries runs from 18 April – 10 May at the Royal Lyceum – visit the Lyceum website for full details.
Read Mhairi MacLeod’s review of Trumpets and Raspberries.
Read the itsonitsgone.com preview.
Photos by Alan McCreadie.