Farce within theatre relies upon two vital connections to survive. The first being that of top notch actors who can speed their way through absurd situations and make the whole thing bemusing and believable. The second, and whilst true for all theatre, is that of having the right audience, which unfortunately is out of the hands of most producers. The reason why these two are so vital, is because a play such as Rumours by Neil Simon, can just as easily sink as much as it can swim when either the cast or the audience are off balance. Farce demands a rigorous cast to push the narrative into absurdity and it relies upon the audience to be there every second of the journey and dropping all common sense as they do so. Whilst the cast might be giving it their all in Rumours, I – the audience – was not.
In Rumours, a RoAm Productons in association with Madison Theatre Company, Rob Watt directs a melodramatic, absurd and bemusing piece of theatre that steadily drives you insane as you attempt to unpick the raveling levels of twisted plots. It’s a little bit like watching an episode of Murder She Wrote mixed with Faulty Towers with hair and makeup by Bonnie Tyler – the farce of all farces. Whilst the image might be entertaining to picture, and stylistically Rumours is a triumph, the melodrama becomes tiring and enduring for the seasoned theatre goer.
Charley and Vivian are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary with a dinner party with their friends, only behind their backs the rumours are beginning that their marriage is not all happiness as perceived. There is a gun shot and Charley has been hit in his ear lobe, and Vivian is no where to be seen. The assembling dinner party guests are left to cover the scene of the crime, causing chaos in twisting lies and stories ending in many a man with blood on his shirt and mistaken identities. It is as perfect a narrative as needed for farce, although why none of the characters just tell the truth and be done with it is beyond me.
The cast attempt to grapple with Simon’s text with fierce force, but ultimately this farce is too much to hold attention. It clearly is not the sort of theatre that I enjoy, but one that might tickle the fancy of someone more light hearted than I. It’s witty and action packed in places, whilst being slightly repetitive in others. The balance is ultimately not there, and with the right audience it might just prove to be more than a few laughs.
Rumours is playing at the Hen and Chickens Theatre until 18th June. For more information and tickets, see the website here.