I have been discussing this text with students for many years, during which time comedy has changed from stereotyping to alternative to pc and still there is something relevant. It is about comedy, initially, but it is also about moral values - trust and loyalty and, as you would expect from Griffiths, it is a political play. Operating over real time we familiarise ourselves with a diversity of desperate characters during act one as they warm up for their comedic performances in act two. Our expectations of loyalty and betrayal are partially confounded during act two so Griffiths keeps our interest high, especially by leaving Price's startling act until the end. He belongs to no one and indeed student and teacher roles are reversed as he points out Waters' own betrayal by forgetting his working class roots. It is a powerful drama, even today and reminds us that the truth whether in comedy, politics or our own personal ideology is the best weapon we have to improve society.
Though inexplicably a little out of fashion, as indeed his mucker Alan Plater's were in his last few years, Griffiths' plays are in fact timelier that ever and you can extend the trope of comedy as far as you like in finding this an indictment of the world of entertainment and, indeed, the society we live in. In the first act we see the aspiring stand-up comedians, ( all men, significant that), being trained by old stager Eddie Waters for possible signing by a London agent who will appraise them in the 2nd act. We proceed through an okay Irish observational comic, a sardonic Welsh lacerator, the usual club circuit types including a somewhat opportunistic and/or self hating Jewish one and a fairly useless couple perpetrating a vent act among the more prominent we will encounter in act 2. In this second part they each run through their routines, the startling Gethin Price, the best by a mile, thus likely, you'd have thought - I did - to get the gig. In Act 3 Challnor the impresario selects, as it dawns on you he was always going to,.......other than Gethin Price; an occasion when something is not a surprise but still a shock. Indeed the acts selected above him implicitly self-indict a lazy, self-satisfied world that cherishes the 'wrong' values and won't touch Price's incendiary act with a barge-pole. Famous for a career- making performance by Jonathan Pryce and latterly the underrated David Dawson, this is a mordant attack on shallow values and implies a need for genuine ones. A reminder of why Griffiths once said that he found " the sheer bad taste" of Dennis Potter's 'Brimstone and Treacle' "makes you want to cheer" , a wonderful compliment. Top fellow and a brilliant writer. Entertaining and instructive, this play should be performed FAR more often.
Fantastic comedy; Did not catch a single wrinkle... I never stopped laughing reading this long forgotten play; There's a fantastic scene of ventriloquism in there. Why isn't it still played on Broadway?
Although this play may seem to crude and flippant from the offset, in a deeper reading there are many issues handled well including racism and sexism to name a few, this is a jem of the comedy genre and was greatly enjoyed!