Written by David Halliwell, Directed by Stuart Hudson
Four Chaps and a Chick
Unity Theatre (17th-18th April 2007)
No doubt when David Halliwell’s debut play hit the stage in 1964, gales of laughter reverberated around the venue, as a certain type of person recognised characters they knew and despised. Yes, the ridiculously simplistic caricatures of student radicals would have delighted the kind of sneering middle class people who had never had a dream worth fighting for in their lives, yet feared those who did. In 2007, a youngish Unity crowd laughed loudest at the line ‘I’m going for a shite’.
When we first meet Malcolm Scrawdyke (played by director Stuart Hudson), he is struggling to get out of bed. He’s just been chucked out of art school by the head teacher, basically because he never does any work. But in Malcolm’s head, the real reason for his imminent departure is that society is run by ‘eunuchs’ who stifle true geniuses like himself. With friends Irwin (Paul Barrow), Wick (Tim Blagden) and Nipple (Barry Hudson), he plots to conquer the world, and enjoy ‘power for power’s sake’.
As the play unfolded before me, I was aware it was supposed to be a comedy. That much was obvious from the pauses and accompanying notes of desperation in the actors’ voices as the expected shrieks failed to materialise.
The audience was shaken out of its collective near coma by some genuinely shocking scenes near the end, involving the ‘chick’ who was the object of Malcolm’s lust (played by Mary Gerardine Hooton, who put in the evening’s only impressive performance). But even this was unconvincing, precisely because it came so out of the blue.
This was a dire waste of two and a half hours, plus the half hour it’s taken me to type my review.