Described as a ‘wonderfully chaotic and colourful tragicomedy’ Theatre-19 Presents: John is a particularly silly devised piece at theSpace@Surgeons Hall from a group of Bristol University students, presumably called Theatre-19.
a particularly silly devised piece
John Smith has died in his twenties under sudden and mysterious circumstances. That is not a spoiler, but the starting point of the play. A ragbag of characters on a scale from the relatively sound of mind to the utterly weird and bonkers attend the wake. It’s hardly a murder mystery but there is the suspicion that any one of them might be connected to John’s demise as revelations abound concerning what was going on in his life. There is the mysterious housekeeper, the completely over-the-top and camp hippy-style flute teacher, his partner, the only person dressed in traditional funeral attire, the confused Penelope, who reconciles hunting with a gluten-free vegan diet and Giles, the man-bunned Bohemian. It’s a group that could create the worst nightmares and they make a pretty good job of it.
Apparently it was a sell-out show in Bristol earlier this year and received rave reviews, which clearly puts it into the category of a Marmite play. There are shades of My Night with Reg, without the emotional depth and Loot without the skill of black comedy. It could approach farce if it were more skillfully constructed and the odd scene would not go amiss in a Punch and Judy show. There are some niggling errors surrounding champagne, which doesn’t come in the style of bottles that were flaunted and neither does it require a corkscrew to open it, but those are minor concerns in a play with so much else of concern
The invitation to ‘immerse ourselves in the drama, comedy and chaos’ of the production is generous, but is one that is perhaps best responded to with an apology for having a prior engagement, like a funeral to attend.