Farce is a risky business and Anthony Neilson's seasonal offering teeters near the precipice with the premise he chooses for this particular venture. It's Christmas Eve and two policeman have been assigned the duty from hell: to inform an elderly couple that their daughter has been killed in a traffic accident. So far, so deeply unfunny, surely? Yet remarkably, Neilson's play swiftly develops into a thoroughly accomplished farce that somehow narrowly avoids the parameters of bad taste and ends up simply being great fun.
The policemen's mission is interpretated as pertaining to a dog rather than a daughter and from this simple misunderstanding springs a labyrinth of confusion and chaos that somehow, in the best tradition of farce, finds resolution only in the play's closing moments. Thomas Fisher and Darrell D'Silva are the policemen who give new meaning to the words 'bumbling' and 'gormless', whilst Sheila Burrell & Patrick Godfrey are marvellous as the endearing old couple at the heart of the drama. There's much that's predictable with the usual quotient of mistaken identity, narrow escapes and double entendres, but, despite its relentless pace very little feels contrived and it has a natural fluidity that's essential for the genre. Anyone who baulks at traditional Christmas fare or who's longing for an alternative to the tide of seasonal sentimentality will probably welcome this blackest of comedies with open arms.
Notices from the popular press....
VICTORIA WORSLEY for THE STAGE says, "As an alternative to pantomime this Christmas, this works very well." BRIAN LOGAN for TIME OUT says, "The script and situations are funny enough..." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "It's an enjoyable evening, ...The play, though, suggests that Neilson isn't quite up to speed yet with life in the farce lane." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "The play seems to be pulling in several directions at once and can't make up its mind whether it is meant to be a punch-drunk gagfest or an Ibsenite attack on protective illusions." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "One is reluctantly forced to conclude that Neilson doesn't know his farce from his elbow."
External links to full reviews from newspapers