Laugh your Farce Off is a collation of three new pieces of farcical writing, performed and produced by multiple artists involved in other shows at the Fringe. When done well, through slapstick humour, irreverence and intertwined story lines, farces can be works of art - appreciated by more casual theatre goers and respected by the most stony-faced critics. Playwrights such as Joe Orton and Noël Coward have managed to make these situational comedies and art form. None of the farces on offer today really live up to expectations. Each one has its own negatives and positives. The team behind them seem to have treated each play as an afterthought of their other productions.
The first show on offer is ‘Happy Endings’, a play about a man who confuses a euthanasia clinic for a brothel named ‘Happy Finish’. Through a series of tedious character links, which conclude in an awful twist, the story plays out to its climax when Simon (played by Dave McNeill) realises his error. Happy Endings is poorly written, none of the characters are particularly explored, nor do any hold the typical charm or quirks you expect from a farce.
Following up Happy Endings is ‘Power House’ by Sally Torode. Power House follows a Greater London superhero social, where several super characters (once again, tediously linked) end up in a room with one another, with amusing consequences. Liam Stewart plays the hammy Invisiablo, a hero with the power to make himself invisible. Complete with terrible Spanish accent, Invisiablo looks to woo any female with a pulse, while the bizarre love story of Cupidinator (Tai Lawrence) and Miss Boob (Ursula Early) plays out in front him. Complete with Gangnam Style dancing and donkey impressions, Power House is unimaginative at best, though has several cheap laughs that keep the audience entertained.
The third and final farce on offer is the aptly named ‘Smash Her Back Doors In’. Written, directed and curiously starring Gabriel Bisset-Smith, the play in no way redeems the show’s previous shortcomings. The farce revolves around a pervy Blind Date-type show where the vulgar host ‘Daddy’, played by Smith, asks his contestants to ‘touch his semi’ before putting them through a series of lewd questions, in order to find them someone to fornicate with. Smash Her Back Doors In can barely be called a farce at all. It’s just an absurd (half) storyline that holds no real humour, just shock value. Bisset-Smith’s play feels like it was created by a twelve year old in the playground at an all-boys private school.
Laugh Your Farce Off has few and limited laughs, barely touching on several of the well-known variables in the formula for a successful farce. The writing is simply not that good, nor the ideas for the stories particularly stirring. If you have a lewd sense of humour, take pleasure in awkwardness or have the mind of a hyperactive teenager, this production might be for you. If you are looking to see a witty show, with substantial plot and interesting characters, look for something else.