Black Comedy

Venue: Drama Barn
Running Until: 20th February
Written by: Peter Shaffer
Directed and Produced by: Katie Lambert and Sam Briggs
Rating: ****

Peter Shaffer’s excellently scripted Black Comedy lit up the stage in the Drama Barn last night. The main part of the action taking place in a power cut opens up avenues for hilarity, mistake and chaos – and chaos definitely does ensue.

Tom Crowley as Colonel, the hard and painfully straight father of bride to be Carol (Edith Kirkwood), was fantastic. His face, not once betraying any trace of a smile, was hilarious for this reason alone, and the fear that was instilled into Brindsley (Freddie Elletson) was duly felt by us as an audience. Kirkwood and Elletson as the central characters proved their skills in comedy; Kirkwood’s facial elasticity, combined with a perfected irritation of a voice sat perfectly in her white patent heels and tea dress. Elletson gave another solid performance. Endearing, amusing, and hapless, he was the epitome of a man who merely tries to please everyone; bearing with sterling conviction large quantities of water.

Sam Lawson’s poised and fashionably dressed Harold was a stereotypical caricature of a homosexual man. His accent was maintained throughout as was the placement of his cream scarf, Lawson showed comedic competence, and succeeded in being an enjoyable addition to the characters. Sadly the professionalism of the play was slightly let down by Steph Bartlett as Miss Furnival in places, as it was apparent that she found the events of the evening amusing, perhaps even more so than we did.

As with any comedy, there is a tendency to over play certain aspects; Black Comedy was guilty of this in places. However, it did not detract from the fact that the main purpose of this play is sheer enjoyment. The surprising and highly effective set and lighting design merely added to the colour and vibrancy that was present on stage, and the attention to detail regarding this was impressive.

Co-directors and producers Katie Lambert and Sam Briggs are owed praise for their first Drama Barn endeavour. Although much of the idea was already set due to it being a well known piece, they showed clever and intuitive direction that engaged well with the theme and target. It was also obvious that a great deal of work had gone into sourcing every single lampshade York possesses.

You cannot help but be infected by the fun and hilarity that takes place on the stage. In short, it is a well executed farce that delivers exactly what it promises. I recommend seeing it while you can – although you may want to bring a torch.


  1. Personally, I thought Steph Bartlett delivered her performance with utmost professionalism. An unfair comment that, in my opinion, is not accurate.

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  2. Did the reviewer see the same show as I did? What a pile of bollocks, Bartlett didn’t let down the production at all. Her and Sam Lawson stole the show and didn’t corpse at all.

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  3. …in singling out Stephanie Bartlett for laughing onstage? I think everyone did it – good to see a cast enjoying themselves.

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  4. …for a reviewer to write unprecedented, unfounded and unnecessary comments about a performer but an audience member is unable to write a comment about the reviewer and her unsubstantiated criticism. Well done, Nouse. Well done.

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  5. I rather fancy that Bamberger’s ‘unexpected catapault across the stage’ may have been, er… ‘improvised’…

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  6. It seems the reviewer missed the point of Miss Bartlett’s performan
    ce. She kept in character throughout, her laughter being that of a drunk in the dark.

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  7. 19 Feb ’11 at 3:52 pm

    Stephanie Bartlett

    Please don’t delete this. Let me have my say.
    I could go on about how utterly offended I am by this review but I won’t, I will merely justify my performance. I may reveal some plot points but please let me explain myself. What I am about to expound are all character points that I have carefully planned throughout the rehearsal process. Not once did I corpse.
    1. Miss Furnival is terrified of the dark, she is nervous and fidgety and often releases some of that tension by trying to make light of the situation.
    2. She has her first taste of alcohol and loves it, it brings out a side of her character that none of the other characters have seen before.
    3. She becomes cheeky and drunk, all the while in the dark. She knows she can get away with it – she DOES find everything amusing. She has lost her inhibitions and is enjoying alcohol for the first time. Who doesn’t smile or laugh more when they drink?

    It is a shame that my character was misconstrued in such a way. I apologise if your interpretation of Miss Furnival was nothing more than a poor actress corpsing onstage. What more can I do? I will not alter the reactions of the character to please a reviewer.
    I just want people to know that I have the utmost respect for Sam, Katie and everyone involved in Black Comedy and I would never jeopardise their hard work for the sake of my own foolish enjoyment.

    That is all, if this comment gets deleted it will be a travesty. It will be posted on facebook.

    Thank you.

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  8. No comments? This is a joke. What’s the point in a comment box you fucking idiots. The other campus media will appreciate this automatic deletion.

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  9. 19 Feb ’11 at 11:08 pm

    Gotta say.....

    …This review isn’t that unfair, as it’s not the first time I’ve seen Stephanie corpse during a barn performance. It happened in Ignatius Briary too. Sure, it’s great to know a cast are enjoying themselves but the reviewer is right, it lets the side down. The audience want to suspend their disbelief at the theatre; they can’t do this if someone breaks character onstage. That said, she’s a really good actress in the making, she just needs to control her giggles – though I understand it must be so hard with Elletson and Crowley on stage.

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  10. I know the play well and saw it tonight and I personally feel that Stephanie Bartlett played the part as the script intended her to come across. If the reviewer didn’t fully understand the ways in which the character was constructed by the play’s author, or had been brought to life by the play’s directors, thats one thing – but commenting in a review that an actress was acting in an unprofessional manner onstage is both unfair and unkind.

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  11. 21 Feb ’11 at 5:40 pm

    Michael Billington

    I thought Stephanie Bartlett’s performance was very accomplished.

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  12. I feel I need to defend the poor reviewer who has come under intense scrunity.

    A reviewer’s job requires a great deal of courage and integrity – one should be allowed to express their opinion in any form, especially in the form of a review to a small university play. Reviews and critical analysis are vital in all forms of creative work and to take exception to the critic is, of course, allowed and the performer’s right, although, it does not belittle or negate the review or the points that it raised.

    My final points are that whilst the clearly concerned actress’ confidence may be dented, we know nothing of the effect that her response had on the reviewer- it would be a shame if any future reviews were aversely affected or in any way compromised. Again it would be awful if the reviewer’s passion for critical writing was in any way curtailed because one actress couldn’t handle one bad review (nature of the beast, darling).

    Yours (pleading for some restraint)

    Prince Kriss Kezie Uche Chukwu Duru Akabusi II, Lord of the Dance, Minister to the Bulgarian Interior, Champion of the Ultimate Bear Make-Up Competition 2003, and Senior Advisor to all Armenians over the age of 123.

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  13. Has anyone considered what a blow these comments could be to an up-and-coming reviewer? Especially one who has been gaining a good reputation for sound judgement in her reviews up until now. Be reasonable

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