The Humour Condition
By Laura Hely Hutchinson
Big belly laughs, shared memes, happy tears – humour provides us with some of the most genuine and memorable bonding experiences imaginable. The Humour Condition, the new play from Closed Shop Theatre, takes an in-depth look into our relationship with humour and the different ways it can affect our lives.
The piece, which was on for three days at The Lion and Unicorn during Camden Fringe, was put together by six promising students from East 15 Acting School. The actors play individual but interweaving characters struggling with an aspect of their life, as well as also playing other supporting roles for each other’s storylines.
The opening scene shows Jessica Robjohns playing Georgie, a successful stand-up comedian who shares her slightly traumatic experiences with the world. Turning distressing situations into laughter can be extremely cathartic and uniting, but if you have to repeat them night after night for your career, it can be hard to move past these issues. This is likely to be one of many reasons why so many stand up comedians struggle with mental health issues, and as we see by the development of Georgie throughout the show (helped by Robjohns’ very convincing performance), retelling old battles can get on top of you.
Cancer patient Ivy (played by Ellie Jones) has an entirely different issue when it comes to humour – nobody laughs around or at her anymore. Ivy’s storyline is very thought provoking – around 1 in 2 people get diagnosed with some form of cancer, and as with any illness it’s very easy to feel like a heavy burden. Jones’ brilliant performance reminds us that illness doesn’t mean you don’t want to feel normal and be surrounded by laughter every once in a while.
Lucy Kitson plays Charlotte, who is writing a thesis titled ‘The Humour Condition’. She academically is very knowledgeable about humour and how we use it, but struggles to make people laugh herself. She speaks of how humour seems to appear in her life at hard times (such as during her dad’s funeral) but not when she wants it. Charlotte’s storyline reminds us of what we all know too well, you can prepare jokes as much as you like, but it is spontaneous situational humour which is very hard to learn. Kitson’s performance as the party host and manager was enjoyable as she played these supporting roles extremely persuasively.
Edward Chalkley plays Ben, who has social interaction difficulties, and we see how Ben reacts to being invited to and attending a party. The character is reminiscent of Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, especially during the scene of him walking to the party. It is very important to make sure that if there are neurodiverse in a play that their behaviours don’t turn into a joke and are informed by neurodiverse individuals themselves, so I don’t feel qualified enough as an individual to decide if Ben as a character is representative. However, Chalkley’s performance was very believable and showed a lot of potential for the future.
Joe Delacroix plays Mark, a funny and confident individual who uses humour to hide his pain and struggles with substance abuse. Mark can’t hold down a job for more than two months and often behaves inappropriately because he just can’t take life very seriously. I appreciated the scene in which Mark admits he struggles with anxiety issues, as this highlights the very real issue of toxic masculinity, leading to men struggling to talk about their mental health and instead relying on alcohol and drugs.
Finally, Peter Kinkaid plays the role of the Clown, and although it is a silent role, it is a very vital one. The clown appears in times of difficulties to show how humour can help everyone, whatever your difficulties or situations Kinkaid played this role very well through body language and facial expressions – and I’d love to see him in a speaking role in the future!
We’re excited to see what’s next for the group and you should be too – make sure you like them on Facebook: Closed Shop Theatre and follow them on Instagram: @closedshopuk to keep up to date with what they’re up to and to be the first to hear any new announcements.