Funny has a rather intriguing scenario: what if an army interrogator decided to use humour as a method of getting information rather than pain. Unfortunately, this premise has been sidelined by other plot points and character motivations.
We are presented with three characters. Jack is a comedian who runs comedy workshops. Paul is his eager student, a soldier who is not only enrolled in the comedy class but is also taking yoga and meditation. Steve is a colleague of Paul’s and doesn’t like Paul’s methods or Jack’s involvement. All of this is juxtaposed with different comedy routines energetically performed by Paul.
What could have been a thought-provoking look at the ‘art’ of interrogation and the physiological response of humour has instead been written as an average anti-war play. You see, Jack is a ‘lefty’ and doesn’t agree with the military’s use of interrogation or in its current war. By focusing on Jack, both his beliefs and Paul and Steve’s response to his presence and ideas, the play is much more interested in the ‘right and wrong’ of the war against Islamic fundamentalists rather than humour’s possible use for military reasons.
Director Katherine Marley manages to keep the action tight and creates some wonderful moments of both comedy and drama, but she is let down by Nunn’s script, which is nothing more than a collection of genius flashes bogged down by mundane clichés.
As for the cast, all three are more than game for what is expected of them. Keith MacPherson is a rather sympathetic average person caught up in extraordinary circumstances and Donald Pirie plays a stereotypical soldier to the best of his abilities. But Tommy Mullins is fantastic as Paul. He is able to split his performance between comedic ‘shtick’ and serious military mindgames with ease, and he’s a pleasure to watch.
If only Nunn’s script trusted the character of Paul more and wasn’t so focused on Jack, this might have been a rather good production. However, with clichéd ideas and a collection of missed opportunities, Funny is no more than a chuckle when it wants to be an ovation. What a shame that such an intriguing idea is such a lost opportunity, even if it does contain some energetic staging and three very good performances.
Playing at the Assembly@7 Holyrood Road until August 30th. Check for the correct times as it sometimes plays twice a day.
Filed under: Edinburgh Festival 2009 |