The Farce is Back: Open Theatre’s Wright Off Review

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“Farce is dead I hear you say? When has it ever been more relevant?!”, exclaims director Al Wright to his theatre company, who lay in a state of disarray across the stage. And just as the crazed Mr. Wright is out of touch with the state of theatre and art, writer-director Luke Haywood is precisely in touch. Playing on some of the ludicrous lengths visionaries today are willing to go to in the name of theatre, Wright Off is a breath of fresh air amongst shows oversaturated with ideas of postmodernism and politics, bringing about plenty of laughs in the meantime.

Wright Off follows ‘esteemed’ writer-director Al Wright along with his overdramatic and under-caring cast and crew, as they attempt to put on two shows, at the same theatre, at the same time. As half of their cast drop out during the dress run, the already impossible task would seem only further lost, but not to Al. What ensues is non-stop ride of screaming, crying, and trouser-less dancing, in a face-paced farce which never hits the break on laughs and shocks. The star of the show is of course Joe Kent-Walters, who takes up the role of Al Wright himself. His comedic timing and delivery are second to none, hitting every beat and owning the stage for every second he is on it. Blending the character’s mix of despotism and insanity to a brilliant degree, he encapsulates the cliché of the too-far-gone director in a hilarious manner. This is supported brilliantly by the surrounding cast, whose rapport with Al and each other further demonstrates the preposterous nature of the situation: Lucas (Ejiro Imiruaye) with his quips to the audience about his disconcerted manner and the cursed ‘glockenspiel scene’, Lawrence (Spike Woodley) with his constant search for his ‘aura’ and inability to please his wife Samantha (Phoebe Curtis), and the comical yet sweet relationship between Danielle (Grace Revill) and Tomas (Lewis Fraser).

All of this is chaos is brought together through the brilliant direction and writing of Luke Haywood, which sees not a single moment of dead air, keeping the audience in keen anticipation of the next wild event to unfold following a new character entering the stage. Almost every joke lands well, delivered in a blend of one-liners, recurring call-backs and crazy dance sets. The constant overlap of dialogue between characters can at first be a little frustrating, but as you get to know the group, you begin to anticipate the witty comebacks they’re going to fire at each other, the overlap of which seems to be to a deliberate effect.

The whole farce is very reminiscent of a ‘Police Cops’ style show, providing what so many people are looking for in the midst of so many heavily-themed theatre pieces these days, a good old bit of fun. Whilst poking fun at the seemingly fading form of theatre under which the show is performed, it makes sure never to take itself too seriously, with many fourth-wall-breaking references to the audience. Overall, a show packed with hilarious twists and turns with an interactive dance sequence to send the audience off, Wright Off is an absurd joyride of fun to distract you from the chaos of the outside world, by instead providing you with a contained room of theatrical chaos.

Image Credit: Tom Gibson