One Man, Two Guvnors - Owain Arthur

The Humour and Danger of Scripted Bloopers

February 22, 2013 / by / 1 Comment

Hello again! The 2013 Hong Kong Arts Festival has begun and recently I went to watch Richard Bean’s new play “One Man, Two Guvnors”. It was two and a half hours of hilarity with live music from a very good-looking male quartet, songs and dance from the cast, partial nudity and an occasional fire on stage. Despite the play’s hilarity though, I’m not so sure how I feel about its scripted breaking of character, which was at once hilarious but slightly odd for me, and I’d like to hear what you guys think. Here’s what happened:

During a scene, the main character, Francis, felt hungry and asked rhetorically if anyone had a sandwich. To his surprise, an audience member actually had a hummus sandwich and offered it to him out loud! After an awkward pause that eventually turned funny, the actor broke into laughter and asked suspiciously, “Have you seen this play before? You just happened to have a sandwich inside a theatre?” This sparked a roar of laughter and to make things funnier he added, “You…don’t really know how this works do you? Up here the questions are Not. Supposed. To. Be. Answered.” After a few more minutes of uncontrollable laughter from both audience and actor, just when I thought things were getting back on track, a new character came onto the stage. After two lines he began laughing anew, clearly still affected by the lingering hilarity of the hummus sandwich. Francis then looked at the sandwich’s owner and said chuckling, “This is Seun by the way. He only has three lines in this play and you’ve ruined two!”

A few other minor instances of character breaking happen throughout the play. By the end of the show, when most were exhausted from laughing and partly still in disbelief that the actors actually broke out of character, we realize at the curtain call that everything was scripted! Hummus sandwich owner was part of the ensemble! When I realized that the character breaking was part of the act, I couldn’t help but think of Saturday Night Live. It’s all very well and funny but surely there should be a difference between television and stage comedy. To me, the breaking of the fourth wall (the imaginary boundary between the actors on stage and the audience; when a character speaks directly to the audience, the fourth wall is broken) coupled with the breaking of character inevitably takes away theatrical realism and gives the impression of being unprofessional all too easily, regardless of whether it was scripted or not. So what do you think? Is there a danger to scripted bloopers? Does it really matter as long as it gets a good laugh? Is it too highbrow to say that SNL-esque comedy doesn’t suit the theatre? Sound off below and let me know what you think!

p.s. there’re lots of fantastic shows in the line-up for this year’s HK Arts Festival, check out the programme at http://www.hk.artsfestival.org and buy student-discounted tickets while they’re still available!

 

JW

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