Review: Bang Bang! at Northcott Theatre
Ariane Joudrey, Online Arts and Literature Editor, and Tom Dormer, Online Science Editor, reviews John Cleese’s ‘Bang! Bang!’ at Northcott Theatre.
While John Cleese may be remembered for his comedic acting in Monty Python or Faulty Towers, his writing he is just as memorable. His latest farce, ‘Bang Bang!’ is a credit to Cleese’s storytelling and shows that his playwriting abilities haven’t diminished 51 years after Monty Python began.
While the farce clearly has Cleese’s fingerprints all over it, you would be mistaken to think it just another Python sketch. Set in late 19thcentury France, ‘Bang Bang!’ was originally based on ‘Monsieur Chasse’ by Georges Feydeau, but Cleese makes it his own, with an added extra dimension. Setting the play in its original time period, Cleese makes jokes about the dated class and patriarchy of the time. The 19thcentury costume design adds to this effect, while also playing as a significant role in the plot.
Tessa Peake-Jones (known for her roles in Grantchester and Only Fools and Horses) and Tony Gardner (known for his roles in Fresh Meat and My Parents Are Aliens) are excellent in their roles as the Leontine and Duchotel. Both roles are slapstick heavy, but the exact timings that this requires look easy in the arms of these two actors. Throughout the play, dramatic irony is played upon well without over exaggeration. The characters stating their confusion through occasional fourth-wall-breaking also add to this, however it does start to lose some immersion after a while.
Nevertheless, as a whole Cleese balances his captivating storytelling, with his comedic relief. The play’s director, and chief executive of Exeter Northcott Theatre, Daniel Buckroyd uses his knowledge of the Theatre well.
With spectacular scene changes implementing dramatic lighting and even Python-esq songs, which are sung to the audience, the changing of sets is made a part of the play, rather than something that should be hidden.
Overall, the farce is a great comedy, aimed at both Python and non-python fans alike. Having been given a second lease of life after its debut in the Colchester in 2017, Cleese and his team has made sure this farce went out with a bang! (bang!)