Comedians

Trevor Griffiths 'Comedians' ran at The Young Vic Theatre from 17th September 1987 until 17th October 1987.

Cast List

Mr Patel...............................................Ajaykumar

Caretaker.....................................Edward Clayton

Ged Murray...............................Howard Crossley

Phil Murray..........................................Alan Hulse

Sammy Samuels.................................Mike Kemp

Mick Connor.................................Mark Lambert

George McBrain.........................Matthew Marsh

Gethin Price..................................Mark McGann

Eddie Waters....................................Bert Parnaby

Club Secretary....................................Willie Ross

Bert Challenor...................................Reg Stewart

Pianist.........................................Robert Davidson

The part of the Caretaker was originally to be played by Dickie Arnold who was taken ill during rehearsals

Synopsis

(from screenonline)

A secondary school in Manchester, the mid-1970s. The attendees of a comedy evening class begin to assemble. First in is Gethin Price, followed by Irish docker George McBrain, who has given a lift to his classmate Phil Murray. Price does not join in their banter. Phil worries that Ged, the other part of his double act, has not yet turned up. Two more classmates arrive: Jewish businessman Sammy Samuels and Mick Connor, another Irishman. The classmates indulge in some banter, which is interrupted by the arrival of their teacher, the comedian Eddie Waters. As they prepare the classroom, Waters is troubled by the reappearance of Price with a skinhead haircut, and he is clearly concerned when Price informs him that he has changed his act.

Waters outlines the itinerary for the evening. The class will warm up, then leave for the Grey Mare Lane club, where they will each perform a five-minute act. Bert Challenor will be the representative from the Comedy Federation, which will awarding contracts to the more promising comics. Waters has a history with Challenor, and the others worry that this will affect their chances. They start the warm-up, but are interrupted by the late arrival of Ged, Phil's brother and comedy partner. The first verbal exercise ends with Price improvising a crude limerick. Waters wants to lead them away from the use of stereotypes in their acts, and he analyses Price's limerick to demonstrate its hatred of women and sex. Waters concludes that most comedians feed prejudice and fear but the best ones illuminate those emotions.

They are interrupted by an Asian man, Mr Patel, who is looking for an English language class. Waters takes him to see the principal. The classmates can't understand why Price, the teacher's pet, is so bent on riling Waters. Together, they sort out a running order for their acts, with Price last on the bill. Waters returns, and they try another exercise, which involves thinking about a difficult incident in their lives. After some awkward stories, Waters ponders why humans laugh at the pain of others, but cry at their own.

Challenor enters the classroom, and Waters leaves with Patel to try the principal again. Challenor makes it clear that he expects a very different type of comedy from that which Waters has been instilling in the group. When he leaves, the men panic and try and think of ways they can make their acts more appealing. Waters returns and leads the men off to the club.

In the club, the men perform their turns. Connor sticks with his act, but after a slow start Samuels abandons his act for more obvious fare. Phil ruins his double-act with Ged by lapsing into crude racist material, and McBrain alters his material skilfully to please Challenor. Finally, to complete silence, Price emerges in white-face and acts out a verbally and physically violent scene as a football supporter confronting two blow-up dolls in evening dress. The concert secretary winds up the evening.

The men return to the classroom. They are tense, either because they are aware of their betrayal of Waters, or because they are unlikely to do well out of the evening. Challenor enters with Waters. He dismisses Connor, Phil and Ged, but with some reservations praises Samuels and McBrain. He generally finds the acts appealing only when they abandon Waters' lessons. Challenor ends with some very harsh criticism for Price. As he leaves he is ticked off by Waters, and the other men, except Price, trail out saying their goodbyes.

Price discusses his act with Waters. Waters thinks it was brilliant but full of hate, and not containing the compassion that they had worked on over the previous weeks. Price counters that the compassion belonged to Waters not him, and he felt a release with the hate in his act. Waters recounts his days with ENSA immediately after the war, when a visit to a concentration camp brought home to him that humanity has got to get beyond hate. They reach an impasse, and Price leaves. Patel suddenly enters to retrieve a bag he left behind earlier. He tells Waters a joke, and Waters encourages him to join his next class.

"The rebellious Gethinn Price is played with a sullen mesmerising power by Mark McGann"

The Stage and Television Today 8/10/87

"Comedians is a play which entertains, challenges and disturbs in equal parts. Mark McGann plays Gethin Price.....blazing with hatred, constantly spreading discomfort with his brilliant wit."

TNT 12/10/87

Mark came to the role of Gethin Price straight from playing Scott in Up on the Roof - it would be hard to find two more diverse roles!

His portrayal of this young comedian who isn't going to 'sell out' is the most powerful piece of theatre I think I have ever seen. Some people walked out of the theatre during the run of this play - it obviously wasn't what they were expecting and it wasn't easy watching. But they missed out. This was an outstanding piece of theatre and for those of us who did see it, it won't be forgotten. I saw this show five times and each performance had the impact of the first. Mark's portrayal of Gethin Price was raw and exciting and had the audience gripped with the intensity of the character. This was a wonderful role for Mark - he himself said "there are not that many parts this good for an actor my age (he was 26) and it's a chance to show what I can do". I thought he was amazing, but I'll leave you with the critics comments of the time:

Mark McGann plays the working-class rebel with great accuracy and restraint...... he's deliberately not flashy but hugely successful in bringing a fascinating character to life".

Time Out 30/9/87

The limelight falls firmly on Mark McGann who keeps taut control while Price's hatred bleeds anarchically over the moneyed couple he accosts in his act" (picture below)

City Limits 1/10/87

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