Saturday, 9 May 2015
Theatre review: Matchbox Theatre
It's an amusing enough setup, but the joke is a one-note one that's stretched out too far, and that's unfortunately a reflection of how the rest of the evening will pan out.
Frayn is of course the man behind one of the funniest plays of the last century, but if he can work wonders with the complications that slowly wind up into a farce, he doesn't show the same ability to get laughs in a punchier format. The cast is packed with comedy experience, and they approach the weak material with a conviction that often helps it along, but there's only so much they can do. (It helps if they can be heard, of course; from the Circle the acoustics of Polly Sullivan's in-the-round set aren't the best.)
There are of course a few standout sketches - Montagu as a woman in a restaurant loudly mispronouncing words, Wadia as another diner infuriated by her mistakes; Hadfield and Wadia as mathematicians taking small-talk on as if it's a complex equation. But even those playlets that do work tend to fizzle out without a punchline.
The collection of sketches ends with a satire of corporate sponsorship of the arts, a cod-Shakespearean tragedy in which the sponsors are too busy patting themselves on the back to let the play run its course. Given the venue I'm still genuinely unsure whether this constitutes admirable self-awareness, or an astonishing lack of it.
Matchbox Theatre by Michael Fray is booking until the 30th of May at Hampstead Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours including interval.