Twice the effort from the Company of Ten with double-bill opener

Black Comedy

Black Comedy - Credit: Archant

Seeing double will be part and parcel of the start of the new Company of Ten season at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans from tomorrow. (15)

For actors, a double-bill of two one-act plays can mean a lighter workload as they usually only appear in one of them.

But that is not so for performers in the production as they are playing characters in both The Browning Version and Black Comedy.

The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan was first performed in 1948 and cemented the author’s reputation as a serious, mature playwright. He had previously penned Flare Path and The Winslow Boy and followed the success of The Browning Version with The Deep Blue Sea and Separate Tables.

It concerns Andrew Crocker-Harris on his last day as a classics master at a boys’ public school where he appears to be a deeply unpopular man if the views of his wife, his colleagues and the boys are anything to go by.

After many personal and professional humiliations, Andrew is forced to look hard at his past and his future, as he leaves the school.

Black Comedy, by Peter Shaffer, is, on the other hand, a classic farce, with a twist. Although the stage is illuminated for the audience, the majority of the action takes place as though the characters are in a blackout, after a fuse blows in the basement.

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The main protaganist is Brindsley, is an impoverished sculptor, who with his posh fiancee, Carol, have invited her father to bring a potential German buyer to the flat to see Brindsley’s work. But as the lights goes out chaos ensues, as Brindsley descends into frenzied panic as he tries to keep people apart.

Mark Waghorn, who plays both Crocker-Harris and Brindsley, has never been in a double bill before. “I thought it would be really interesting to play two completely different parts in the same evening. I hope it will be just as fascinating for the audience.”

“I find shifting from one character to another fairly easy. The Browning Version is set in the 40s, so there is a certain formality to be observed in the way one stands or behaves in the presence of others. Black Comedy is set in the 60s, so it is much freer. It helps that I change clothes during rehearsal – a sports jacket and formal shoes for Crocker-Harris, a tracksuit and trainers for Brindsley. I spend most of my “Brindsley” time grovelling around on the floor in a state of sweat and panic.”

Performances are at 8pm tomorrow and Saturday and from next Tuesday, September 20, to Saturday, September 24, with a 2.30pm matinee on Sunday, September 18.

To book tickets go to the website or call the box office on 01727 857861.