Edinburgh Fringe 2009
A Respectable Wedding
Venue: C, Chambers Street (until 15 Aug)
Rory Bremner’s translation of this enduring Brecht farce is vigorously interpreted by this young theatre company from West Sussex. Watch family tensions burst to the surface and beyond in this frenetically paced, cleverly staged production.
Brecht’s play was first performed in 1919. Families then were as families are now – full of embarrassments waiting for a catalyst to initiate a reaction. So what better place to observe a series of maladroit characters at play than the traditional family wedding with alcohol playing its part in loosening those normally tongue tied by the thin veneer of social niceties normally prevalent at respectable occasions like this.
Picture the scene at the top table. The tipsy and loud Father-of Bride, with his stream of unfunny and inappropriate anecdotes. The fussing mother of the increasingly harassed bridegroom, delivering an endless stream of ever richer dishes to her inebriated guests – cod mornay anyone? A young male guest, who insists on thanking Jesus Christ as the man who made this all possible and conducting the ensemble in a hymn that clearly no-one knows and would rather not be singing. Then there is the young flirt, clearly desirous of anything wearing trousers and with the attributes to get what she is after. Top this off with a jealous bride’s sister, a bride that is some 6 months pregnant, a catty wife and a husband so hen-pecked that they provide every reason on earth never to marry.
The inventive set and clever lighting allows us to see what is going on above and below the level of our top table, with what goes on below leaving little room for the imagination. A dazzling sequence of movements opens the show, allowing each actor to define their character before the first word is uttered. The staccato like delivery and sharp physical interplay leave no time to laugh as the pace, incredibly, continues to pick up throughout. We are told that the groom has made all the furniture – badly as it turns out – which provides moments of extreme comedy as chairs, tables, beds and finally the electrics all give way in what is a clever allegory of the unfolding internecine strife breaking out between the guests. Except that we don’t see any of this furniture – the effects are all cleverly mimed by one of the best drilled casts I have seen in a long time.
A silhouette of the bride and groom “enjoying” their nuptials before the inevitable collapse of the home-made marital bed is a fitting crescendo to this thoroughly enjoyable piece. Such a pity that even a smattering of profanities crept into the script, burlesque of this quality doesn’t need it. Without it you could fill the place several times over as anyone from 8 to 85 would find this show both funny and worryingly true to life.