A JOKE, the latest play from Dan Freeman, finds three men in search of a punch line and three actors delivering a comic masterclass.
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The Space, Niddry Street
A lone massage table, washed in an eerie blue light, sits in the middle of the performance area, surrounded on all sides by audience.
The stage manager walks the first character - played by Richard Oliver - into the glow, and places him on the table. The lighting changes and he comes to life.
A short time later the blue glow returns as he is joined by a second man, former Doctor Who Sylvester McCoy, again led on by the black clad stage manager. The lighting changes again and he too comes to life.
Following the same conceit, a third man appears - Star Trek’s Robert Picardo.
And so we have our three men in search of joke - each attired identically in woolly hat, gown and clogs.
Each is also an atypical stereotype - an Irishman, Englishman and a Scotsman, no less.
As they deconstruct the anatomy of a joke, they ask the questions ‘Who are we?’, ‘Where are we?’, and ‘Why are we?’.
It’s a voyage of discovery played out in a void with only two spoons for company... and it’s laugh out loud funny.
Described as an existential comedy, McCoy’s uniquely elastic face contorts and ripples with myriad expressions, while his consummate clowning skills make his performance quite mesmeric.
Lost in the void, a dreamworld, Picardo’s warmly resonant delivery is accompanied by a knowing charm that perfectly compliments McCoy physicality and cements Oliver firmly in the role of straight man, a part he plays with acutely measured frustration.
“The art is in the intention,” declares one of the three as the deconstruction of humour continues but, of course, there are much deeper messages in Freeman’s layered and thoughtful script.
Loss, the meaning of life, the necessity of hope, all lace the narrative bringing an unexpectedly emotional punch to the piece as the final question is posed.
In life, it seems the joke is actually on us, in the meantime, A Joke will keep you laughing and set you thinking.