Comedians (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
The plot premise of Comedians can be told as simply as a joke. Five working-class Englishmen in Manchester who have taken a course in how-to-be-acomic from an old has-been comedian meet for the last time, in Act I, to polish their acts before performing before a talent scout, in Act II, in a private club; and in Act III only two barely emerge from the audition with any promise, the most talented having failed most miserably. But unlike the jokes, the Trevor Griffiths’ play is not funny. One laughs at the ill-assorted, ill-timed, ill-prepared jokes that Neil Simon could have constructed into a Broadway hit like The Sunshine Boys, at the risk of feeling the pain that drives those laborers to lunge so desperately for the brass ring.
The concept illustrated in the plot development is just as simple: display the desperation behind all laughter by showing men who would normally be members of the audience as they try pathetically to rise above their station by replacing the comics whose job is to make men like themselves forget their predicament.
The theatrical image Griffiths has imagined for articulating that plot and concept reveals his genius. The clever notion and the action line might have occurred to any inventive mind—novelist or playwright. But Griffiths shows us a sad, drab public schoolroom, a dark wet night at the windows, among other rooms being used for similar adult education classes, and an old custodian—who...
(The entire section is 2438 words.)
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