Wealthy people, we love to laugh at them. Even Molière would fill his farces with well-to-do characters. Rumours, put on by LUU Theatre Group continues in this long tradition. Add to the mixture a politician and you get an explosive mix of potential comedy gold. While this potential wasn’t always met, some brilliant characters left no one short on laughter.
The play starts with guests starting to turn up at the anniversary of Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance, Charley Brooks. While being concerned by the absence of servants is not something most of the audience can relate to, being concerned by hearing a gunshot certainly is. Charley is found with a shot-through ear, but, conveniently for the story line, he has also taken sleep medication and fallen asleep. No one is quite sure what happened, but they do know that the only way it could potentially get worse is if it ended up on the front pages. In addition, Charlie’s wife is nowhere to be found, and as more of Charley’s middle class friends and acquaintances arrive the absurdity of the entire situation begins to get out of hand. Asking your guests to help cook the dinner might get away with being edgy today, but in the context of the play, people start suspecting something’s up.
The gags might have seemed a bit too heavy and forced at the beginning, but they quickly set into their rhythm and the audience couldn’t stop laughing by the show’s end. The play rests on its characters, who are very convincing although utterly absurd. We’ve got the TV cook (charmingly called Cookie) with random back spasms married to a socially awkward psychiatrist and an insecure candidate for MP with a crystal-obsessed, jealous wife. With such a broad cast of characters, gags based on people storming in and out of the room set on stage became that much better.
Eventually – after two shots are fired – there’s no escaping the truth. The problem is no one is sure what actually happened. Did Charley’s wife find out about an affair he had? Did Charley try to kill himself? Rumours spread, but soon a police officer turns up. Keen to cover up the events guests have another go at lying, failing exactly like before. No one knows, however, what actually happened, so a convincing story needs to be made up. What are the odds of this story actually being true?
In today’s world of constant media attention where impeccable personal image is a must, this play actually strikes a chord. It is a lighthearted farce playing on absurdity to entertain, but one gets the sense that having to lie and cover up potentially harmless events might seem a little too familiar to those in the public eye. For the rest of us, Rumours certainly offered an entertaining way to spend an evening.
Image courtesy of Daisy Petley