Matchbox Theatre

Theatre, Off-West End
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Matchbox Theatre
© Manuel Harlan
Felicity Montagu and Mark Hadfield

The great Michael Frayn's 'new play' is a sketchy disappointment

 

RISK AVERSION: A Short Play
 
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR ‘Hello. Is that Michael Frayn’s agent?’
AGENT ‘Speaking.’
AD ‘Ed Hall here, Hampstead Theatre. Listen, has Michael written any new plays?’
AGENT ‘I’ve told you, Ed. He’s retired.’
AD ‘People thought that about Tom Stoppard…’
AGENT ‘Yes, but Michael’s said it for years. On the record.’
AD ‘So no new plays?’
AGENT ‘No new plays.’
AD ‘Nothing in a bottom drawer somewhere?’
AGENT ‘Well, there is one thing.’
AD ‘Go on…’
AGENT ‘“Matchbox Theatre”, his book. He’s written all these short plays over the years. Sketches, really. We published them last year.’
AD ‘ Ooh. Any good?’
AGENT ‘Not so much. I call them Fag Packet Theatre. He doesn’t like that.’
AD ‘No.’
AGENT ‘We designed it to look like a matchbox – real pretty like. Nobody noticed the writing. It’s the literary equivalent of an Urban Outfitters book.’
AD ‘I’ve got that “Colour Me Ryan Gosling” one.’
AGENT ‘Right.’
AD ‘Are any of the sketches any good?’
AGENT ‘A couple. One treats two tombstone statues like a married couple in bed – that’s tittersome. There’s a goodie about an underused E-flat contraphonium player sitting through an opera. “Another 1,072 bars of sweet FA.” Mostly, no.’
AD ‘Would they work onstage though? Like an old-school revue?’
AGENT ‘Look, they’re terribly old-fashioned. One’s a David Attenborough spoof about stagehands. Another has two TV newsmen reporting on plays. Sketch comedy’s come a long way. It’s postmodern now.’
AD ‘Post-what?’
AGENT ‘I’d happily flick through a couple on the loo, but I couldn’t sit through a whole evening.’
AD ‘People love Michael Frayn, though. “Noises Off”. “Copenhagen”. They’ll definitely pay to see the new Frayn. This’ll do wonders for my surplus.’
AGENT ‘Don’t you think you’re holding your audience in contempt?’
AD ‘I’ll bung some big comedy names in – Lyn from “Partridge”, one of the “Goodness Gracious Me” gang – get Hamish McColl to direct in the round and voila, full house. Subsidy, schmubsidy. Now, what’s Harold Pinter up to these days?”

By: Matt Trueman

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