The Joke at Camden People’s Theatre
With Brian Logan and Lloyd Hutchinson, William Adamsdale’s The Joke is about three men – an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman – trapped in a prank they cannot escape. At first the joke is on us, the audience, as the lights dim and for a while we watch an empty stage. We wonder if it’s some sort of theatrical minimalist art, until a fellow viewer comments about it: “What’s going on? Stop looking at me as if I have something to do with this… I think something’s gone wrong.”
Hence there ensues a surreal, marvellously inventive slapstick comedic jaunt into an Alice in Wonderland world of stereotypes and national rivalries. Like a Twilight Zone episode, this Theatre of the Absurd depicts the dilemma of being stuck in someone else’s joke with no means of escape: “There must be hidden cameras…this is a bloody joke.” An Englishman an Irishman and a Scotsman attempt to devise ways to get out of it, create a dramatic production of an English, Irish, Scottish joke, and ultimately find themselves performing it ad infinitum.
The play is hilariously funny, yet touches on significant emotional issues, regarding stereotyping and the sometimes tense relationship between the English, the Irish and the Scottish. Insisting that, for their joke, the Irishman should be “more Irish”, and “could you be more Scottish?”, cultural clichés are bandied about: “The Scotts always look as if they’re about to cry”, “Can we not name one famous person from Northern Ireland not connected with violence?”. The Englishman is teased for his passive-aggression and inability to stop saying “sorry”, at which point he has a meltdown “Why are we always the baddies? ‘The English did it!!’ ‘We’re all in the same boat’, when it suits you, then whisper behind the captain’s back!…Everything’s our fault, isn’t it!…Oh England, my England…everyone wants to blow us up!” – after which, he is sorry.
The award-winning, highly talented Will Adamsdale combines comedy and theatre to create this tongue-in-cheek combination of a gag, a prank on everyone, and a poignant piece of expressionist theatre about life – how we can become trapped in a rut, in repetitive behaviours, our illusions, our prejudices – ultimately poking fun at the absurdity of it all. The Joke is an excellent, highly inventive, funny, thought-provoking piece.
Photos: Brian Roberts
The Joke is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 17th May until 4th June 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: