N(orman) F(rederick) Simpson Kenneth Tynan - Essay

Kenneth Tynan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

About the highest tribute I can pay N. F. Simpson's A Resounding Tinkle … is to say that it does not belong in the English theatrical tradition at all. It derives from the best Benchley lectures, the wildest Thurber cartoons, and the cream of the Goon Shows. It has some affinities with the early revues of Robert Dhéry and many more with the plays of M. Ionesco. In English drama it is, as far as I know, unique. It is also astonishly funny…. (p. 198)

To sustain anarchic humour for a full evening is among the hardest things a playwright can attempt. Once having espoused the illogical, the irrelevant, the surreal, he is committed: a single lapse into logic, relevance, or reality, and he is undone. A playwright of Mr. Simpson's kind comes defenceless to the theatre. He has voluntarily discarded most of the dramatist's conventional weapons. He can have no plot, since plots demand logical development. Lacking a plot, he can make no use of suspense, that miraculous device which, by focusing our attention on what is going to happen next, prevents us from being intelligently critical of what is happening now. Mr. Simpson can never free-wheel like that. At every turn he must take us by surprise. His method must be a perpetual ambush. All playwrights must invent, but he must invent incessantly and unpredictably. It is the only weapon left him—he is otherwise naked. As naked, perhaps, as a British Foreign Secretary without an H-bomb; yet...

(The entire section is 552 words.)