Review: The Unhappy Medium, by Pat Whymark, Julian Harries and Patrick Marlowe, Common Ground Theatre Company, on tour until July 9
- Credit: Archant
There’s nothing like bursting into laughter with a group of like-minded souls in a theatre (or in this case a community hall). Theatre is a collective experience and great comedy is enhanced when you share it with others.
This was the case with Common Ground’s latest comic gem The Unhappy Medium starring Julian Harries as charlatan and fake medium Montague Faulke with long-term friends and collaborators Patrick Marlowe as his henchman Aubrey Soloman and Dick Mainwaring as the hapless investigative journalist Morton McLean.
The action is set in Ipswich during the mid-1920s as Suffolk comes to terms with the losses inflicted on the population by The Great War and the Spanish Flu epidemic.
People sought refuge in the spiritualism and the occult. There was an urgent need to make sense of all the deaths. They wanted to communicate with their dear-departed and confidence tricksters Montague Faulke and Aubrey Soloman were only too happy to help – for a considerable fee of course.
Morton McLean is prepared to go to any lengths to expose them as frauds but is he really as honest and upright as he claims?
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Casting a play with three actors who not only have great comic timing but know each other’s acting styles inside out creates a relaxed freedom and an easiness on stage which allows the comedy to flow.
The stylised set captures that down-at-heel gentility which makes Harries’ illegitimate aristocrat both sad and hilarious. It’s the era of Noel Coward and Agatha Christie, a time which is ripe for affectionate satire, and Harries, Marlowe, Mainwaring and writer-director Pat Whymark don’t miss a trick.
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The low-tech props in the séance add to the hilarious unbelievability of it all but it makes the point that the people of the time needed to believe.
The three actors create three strong characters which propel the drama forward and provide a reason for the comedy. The laughter arises from the story and the characterisation rather from pratfalls or straight-forward word-play.
If you want a rewarding evening at the theatre but don’t want to stray too far from home then you’d be well advised to look out for a visitation from The Unhappy Medium it will undoubtedly lift your spirits.