The Flop

Broadway Baby / Paul Cockburn

It seems that Cardiff-based Hijinx Theatre Company are happy to take risks. Not when it comes to integrating professional actors with learning disabilities in their productions; that’s been a successful, creatively fulfilling policy for years. Not when it comes to working with physical theatre comedy ensemble Spymonkey; Hijinx has long worked with the best. No, isn’t the big risk here tempting fate by bringing a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe called The Flop?

Almost from the start it’s clear that the humour will be broad, unsubtle and laced with anachronistic references.

If it was a risk, then The Flop is one definitely worth taking, for this latest Hijinx/Spymonkey production is a brilliantly entertaining French farce that’s well aware of its production shortcomings and exploits them mercilessly for great comedic purpose. What we might kindly refer to as the plot is inspired by the true case of the Marquis de Langey; back in pre-Revolutionary France, he was sued by his wife’s family for failing to impregnate her. He was then forced through Trial by Congress to prove, under public legal scrutiny, that he was physically capable of consummating their marriage.

The show takes the form of a fourth-wall-breaking pantomime, presented by six gormless players who are forced to work with a minimal number of props and costumes, in front of a wide wooden set which includes numerous doors and windows which, as in any farce, are used with great frequency. Almost from the start it’s clear that the humour will be broad, unsubtle, and laced with anachronistic references by a sharp, on-the-ball cast and crew, underscoring the whole artificiality of the production, especially when some of the cast attempt to grab their moment in the spotlight.

A great ensemble keep this deliberately shambolic show going forward at just the right pace, without losing any of the clarity that effective farces require. And, though it might seem strange to say it, the remarkably witty script – devised by the whole company – manages to sneak in a few serious points (“The Patriarchy didn’t give me pockets,” for example) that are played lightly but effectively. Definitely good fun if you possess a bawdy sense of humour.