There aren’t many shows where the lights go down, the audience become hushed with expectation, and then the theatre continues to be immersed in darkness until the next scene. But, then again, perhaps Peter Schaffer’s one-act farce Black Comedy is somewhat of a lone light in the dark amidst the world of theatre. Set in a world where darkness represents light and light represents darkness, we watch 1960s sculptor Brindsley Miller (Joseph Scott Vacher) attempt to impress his fiancé’s father (Lucas Fisher Horas) and an illusive art collector (Stanley Morris) amidst the chaos of stolen goods and a power cut. Combining the sublime and the ridiculous, the play is able to provide comedy with depth; as we are left wondering as to whether it is in the dark that we truly show ourselves. A story of affairs, art and absurdity, when performed well it can leave the audience in complete stitches. When performed badly, it can leave an awkward silence that cannot be masked by darkness.
Thankfully, BUST’s take on the play was, quite frankly, excellent. Directed by Jamie Leich,the show kept the audience on the edge of their seats with laughter for the full hour and twenty minutes. The stage space was used creatively with effective props; even if, occasionally, the odd lighter malfunctioned. Occasionally, movements into the “audience” space felt a little inconsistent, but this did not detract from the success of the evening. It flowed between the emotive and the excessive superbly, making the relatively small script a heavyweight that left the audience wanting more.
The entire cast deserves significant praise for a performance that was impressively slick, even in the face of the steep ask of having to act blind for a significant chunk of the play. The audience almost had to pinch themselves as a reminder that all of the actors were first timers to BUST; as this was BUST’s first newcomer-only show, leaving us excited for the year’s new talent. Joseph Scott Vacher portrayed the part of a nervous struggling sculptor, conflicted between being the era’s breadwinning fiancé role model or a bohemian artist, with excellent comic timing and stage presence. The women who embodied this conflict, Hannah Hill and Lydia Williams, were able to act with hilarious contrast and total commitment. Joshua Whyte’s portrayal of Harold Gorringe, a “camp” antiques enthusiast whose items had been stolen, was both effortlessly hysterical yet able to capture some of the more somber themes of betrayal in the play. A personal comical highlight was Georgia Roberts’ depiction of Miss Furnival, the elderly neighbour who preached of holy virtue whilst drinking something stronger; gaining near a laugh-a-line from the audience. Each of the actors were expertly cast and professional from start to finish; only, we should add, for a mere £3 door charge.
Showcasing a punchy script, fabulous talent, slick staging and largely effective backstage work, this is surely a shining light for BUST that has us extremely excited for the upcoming year.