Another quiet period from your humble blogger here, very much linking to current busyness of the world beyond theatre, but it would be remiss to let another month go by without an update on matters Matchbox. Low key as things have been here, things have certainly not been quiet on the performance front and the last weeks have been filled with activity for a quite unique double bill.
Following the weighty and serious subject matter of our previous two plays we return to something considerably more light-hearted and quirky. In the spirit of The Matchbox Sizes Shakespeare Company our March Show this year comprises The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth by David McGillivray and Umlaut: Prince of Dusseldorf As Performed Sundry Times by the Gentlemen’s Folk Society and Guests, A coarse acting play by Michael Green or as we have shortened it, The Farndale Farces. These are favourites on the community theatre circuit and, though this is the first time I think they have been put together, provide a frantic and hilarious take on the whole putting on a play experience in the style of ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’, as the men and women of Farndale Avenue- now moved to West Wickham -endeavour to put on two of Shakespeare’s most esteemed plays. Let us say that they have a lot of…er… enthusiasm, though maybe not quite the finesse and attention to detail and quality finish that one finds with the Matchbox. As a result a fair few things go somewhat awry, but in the stoic tradition of those who have laboured through a performance where everything is collapsing around them, the show must go on! To quote Michael Green whose ‘Art of Coarse Acting’ has been such an inspiration to me, “a coarse actor is one who can remember his lines, but not the order in which they come. An amateur. One who performs in Church Halls. Often the scenery will fall down. Sometimes the Church Hall may fall down. Invariably his tights will fall down. He will usually be playing three parts – Messenger, 2nd Clown, an Attendant Lord. His aim is to upstage the rest of the cast. His hope is to be dead by Act II so that he can spend the rest of his time in the bar. His problems? Everyone else connected with the production.”
The is Shakespeare, then, although even with ‘The Compleat Wrks’ way back in 2012 we have never quite done the Bard like this before. And, believe me, you don’t have to have a passion for the iambic pentameter to enjoy this evening. When it boils down to it, this brace of beauties is quick fire, fast and furious farce, pure and simple – two plays in less than two hours*, that can’t be bad.
Of course the key challenge is that, in order to act badly one has to be rather good, as Green again says – “perhaps not surprisingly, genuine Coarse actors are rarely funny. The best actors are the best actors.” And this, therefore brings to mind the legendary piano playing of Les Dawson:
To be that bad takes ages.
A large number of Matchbox faces old and more recent are working on making this as disaster prone, prop problematic, tongue twisted and set smashing an occasion as possible. It promises to be an evening of fun and fourth wall breaking humour in the mould of ‘All the Great Books’, ‘The Compleat Wrks’ and ‘The Canterbury Tales’, the kind of theatre I so much enjoy. One could start exploring post post modern theory, self reflexivity and all things meta, and believe you me I could do that for an age, but when it bolis down to it I love plays that shed light on the theatre experience, particularly on putting on a play and what happens – good and bad- when the lights go down, the music begins and performers are propelled onto the stage where anything can happen in the next two hours! So, yes, if you want to discuss breaking down the fourth wall in art then pull up a chair and let’s fill the glasses with a provocative little red, but if you just want a great night of theatre at a hugely competitive price then tickets will be available and so will an update, soon.
Great to catch up with you again, hoping you are all well and I will catch up with you good people mighty soon.
*timings are approximate at time of writing and exclude intervals