Show This Week

Feb 10, 2024

1571.) A brilliant British farce hits the Media Funhouse, in three distinct parts. The show airs late Sat/early Sun at 1:00 a.m. EST. (Click link below and in the comments.) This week: Can deconstruction ever be funny? The answer (yes) can be found in the trilogy of plays written by Alan Ayckbourn called The Norman Conquests. This week I begin a series of episodes devoted to this trilogy, which was made into a BBC miniseries that aired in the U.S. on PBS back in the long-ago that was the late Seventies. The series presents a weekend in a country house, in which six people endure each other’s presence while (central action here) a randy librarian, played by the utterly charming Tom Conti, tries to sleep with the female members of the family. He’s married to one sister (Fiona Walker), has planned a weekend getaway with her younger sister (Penelope Wilton) and, during the run of the plays, seduces his sister-in-law (Britcom veteran Penelope Keith). Ayckbourn wrote the three plays so that each one has only one setting (part one is set entirely in the kitchen), and only by seeing all three of the plays does the viewer truly understand what went on over the course of the weekend. In the process, the plays lay bare the construction of a farce — we have characters moving quickly in and out of doors, behavior being based on events we saw previously (or are going to see), and quiet, well-scripted moments of character exposition alternating with broad comic explosions. While this may sound cold and calculated, the result is a very entertaining portrait of some very “on edge” characters, with the whole thing stolen by Conti in a career-making turn as Norman, the very horny librarian.