Hush Theatre is on a mission ‘to deliver a comparable experience to both deaf and able hearing audiences. This they achieve - both deaf and able hearing audiences would have been equally appreciative of some bits of the show, whilst equally nonplussed about others.
The two actors follow through on their promise by performing an hour of silent comedy onstage, or at least partly onstage. Sections of the show are broken up by video segments that somewhat tie into the stage show, projected onto a screen which is not quite large enough. It is the reliance on tech in the place of words that is ultimately the Achilles heel of the show. Before the show even began a major technical issue delayed the start. It was of no major consequence, yet it does highlight how much of a crutch the projection is to the show as a whole.
Dialogue is presented as speech bubbles on a PowerPoint presentation, with the actors constantly shifting the slightly-too-small screen around to fit the relevant speech bubble on. Because are they are so focused on this, their expressions and physicality during these parts are a lot less exaggerated and entertaining than other parts of the show and these segments are far less effective as a result. It doesn’t help that some of the speech bubbles contain typos. Similarly, the video segments, whilst quite well edited and put together, grew a bit wearisome after the first few and I yearned for the actors to return to the stage. The videos seem to be there to tie the show together by highlighting the actors being chased for picking up a briefcase marked ‘Do Not Open’. When it is finally opened, the contents are left unexplained and thus does not impact upon the overarching narrative. More technical malfunctions including repeated videos do not help the situation. Perhaps the production would benefit from being billed as a sketch show rather than a theatrical piece.
When the actors are actually on stage their performances are exemplary. The chemistry between the cast is palpable. The content of their silent comedy is simple but effective, accessible to all. A man hurts his foot; the two men try to outdo each other with sandwiches; one man engages in apprentice dentistry. There is also a decent amount of audience participation. A young girl, for instance, was shown a sneak-peak of a prank one man is about to play on the other and enjoyed it immensely.
A Laughing Matter could be a very good sketch show on the stage or on the screen if they focused on one or the other. Yet by trying to be classified as ‘theatre’ and attempting to force a narrative upon the film, it hamstrings itself. Nonetheless A Laughing Matter remains a solid choice for safe, family-friendly comedy.