‘Laughter is the Best Medicine’ – A play by Christopher Moran, reviewed by Patrick O’Byrne.
Written by first year student Christopher Moran, this play shows very strong potential for this first time playwright. It opens with a lonely figure sitting on the edge of her bed illuminated only by a flickering TV screen off stage left. A man’s heaving guffaws can be heard in response to a Monty Python sketch. It’s clear from the outset that we are witnessing a marriage that has fallen prey to the maturation of only one of the parties. When the comedy writer/children’s party clown (Mr. Poppypants) husband Charles, played by Declan Jones, turns off the TV and enters guffawing and re-enacting excerpts of the sketches for his weary, grey-haired wife Edith, played by Elaine Ward, she is less than impressed.
Through flashbacks, played by Emmet Godfrey and Kate Lalor, we see how they met and the progressive breakdown in their relationship. He is a man obsessed with writing jokes and having witty banter and ignores the needs or opinions of others – in hilariously violent fashion at times, as we see when their neighbours Paul and Eliza, played respectively by Andrew Buckley and Rebecca Mann, visit. This outburst leaves him grabbing for his chest and he ends up in hospital.
Christopher Moran shows no fear of, and does in fact celebrate, corniness throughout this high energy farce. Declan Jones’ hilarious guffaw never got tiring for me yet it was translated very well how grating it and his insistence on using wit in all situations was for the other characters, especially his wife. Elaine Ward portrayed this exceedingly well without saying very much, through her facial expressions. The extremely well observed character of the doctor, played by Shaun Leonard, was a stroke of genius in being the catalyst for supplying Edith with a way out of her torturous marriage.
This was an impeccably cast play with some very strong performances and great comic timing. It was directed very cleverly within a scantily furnished black box set by Christopher’s fellow classmate, Joe Power. Declan Jones played Charles with voracious energy and a very real sense of the single-mindedness and active desire to deny any need for mature dialogue or action at the expense of his marriage and even his life. His character was offset very succinctly in an award winning performance by Elaine Ward.
Perhaps I have been watching too many ‘serious’ plays lately but this was a very welcome and completely refreshing comic relief for me. It took an old style of comedy slapstick and farce and made no apologies for sending it up and poking fun at it. And all with hilarious results.