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The Bowmans/Black Comedy review at Watermill Newbury

As a double bill, this delicious pairing of classic comedies works perfectly on all levels. As both visual and aural entertainment, there is a nice combination of styles leading to the realisation that comedy is not about tickling just one of the senses.

The Bowmans, part of the original Hancock’s Half Hour, is a radio play of everyday country folk. The dual comedy of seeing actors read their radio script while acting out personal vendettas is carried off extremely well by the cast including Will Barton in the style of Tony Hancock, Rachael Spence creating the farmyard noises and David Peart as the long-suffering producer.

While The Bowmans is primarily a visual piece, the beginning of Black Comedy tests the auditory boundaries of comedy. When the lights come up, the play enjoys the visual capabilities of farce taking on the unique concept that when it is dark in the auditorium, the cast can see and when it is light on stage the cast perform as if in complete darkness.

It is an Olympic feat for the actors to maintain their energies while making it credible to think that the actors are performing in blackout.

Greg Haiste gives an exhaustingly funny performance as Brindsley Miller with Jamie Newall camping it up as his homosexual neighbour Harold Gorringe, Claire Vousden as the prim and increasingly intoxicated Miss Furnival, Ellie Beaven as Brindsley’s fiancee Carol and Robin Bowerman as her domineering father.

Director Orla O’Loughlin ensures that both plays are individual in their own right but that they also work together with a smooth compatibility. Designer Fred Meller’s authentically bland radio set for The Bowmans transforms into a bright apartment with good practical capability for expanding the farcical possibilities of Black Comedy.

Production Information

Watermill, Newbury, May 28-July 5

Ray Galton, Alan Simpson/Peter Shaffer
Orla O’Loughlin
Watermill Theatre
Will Barton, Ellie Beaven, Robin Bowerman, Greg Haiste, Jamie Newall, David Peart, Rachael Spence, Claire Vousden
Running time
2hrs 15mins

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