Quartermaine’s Terms opens tonight in Brighton prior to a 12 week run in the West End. It’s a quintessentially British comedy by Simon Gray and perhaps might be described as a polite comedy compared to some of the fast-paced, bawdy farces that Theatreland has seen over the past couple of years.
One Man, Two Guvnors, Noises Off, What The Butler Saw, Privates on Parade have all done great business but 2013 sees some lighter comedies grace the stage. Even if they do have moments where they escalate to fast, ridiculous apexes with doors opening and closing and people’s trousers falling down, on the whole the work of Ayckbourn, Bennett, Coward and Gray has gentler comedic moments.
Ayckbourn’s A Chorus of Disapproval has just closed at the Harold Pinter Theatre but Relatively Speaking plays at the Wyndham’s over the summer. Ayckbourn’s work certainly has farce sequences within them but they tend to be more realistic with moments of satirical observation. Likewise, Noel Coward’s The Vortex plays next month at the Rose Theatre and there are rumours that Chichester’s production of Private Lives could transfer to London later this year and his plays are often seen as more sophisticated and less full-on than a French-style farce. Indeed, Alan Bennett’s new play People has moments that could be described as ‘low art’ but on the whole his plays are perhaps considered a little more intelligent than something like One Man, Two Guvnors which is meant to be played for laughs as it is a full-on take on that very British Carry On style of humour.
Have we run out of ‘madcap’ farces to produce after the most notorious and successful ones have been done already or is there a hunger for gentler comedies in London’s commercial and non-commercial sector this year? Either way, with a top cast which includes Rowan Atkinson, I predict that Quatermaine’s Terms will be one of the biggest hits of the year.