On Friday 26th November, I had the pleasure of watching Mark Daniels’ Coronavirus: A Great British Farce. The set was minimalistic, the plot revolved around only two actors, yet the experience was phenomenal. In Daniels’ response to the ‘uncertainty’ of the past eighteen months, audiences were faced with a truthful and hilarious account of the protagonist’s COVID life.
The male actor (Edward Bartram) embodied the character of Joe, a young man alone in lockdown living in a flat with ‘no garden.’ The second actor (Kathryn Haywood) played a more surreal part in the narrative and took on a multitude of roles. From this sense of flexibility and surrealism, Daniels allowed for the possibility of Haywood to range between hyperbolic presentations of political figures as well as personified inanimate objects. This complexity did not however alienate the audience as Daniels’ framing of absurdity manifested itself into an array of comedic gems that landed perfectly. Moving onto Bartram and Haywood’s performance…it is rare when one watches a play that not only has a great plot but such obvious acting talent. The result of both in this case was undeniable.
Speaking of performance, Daniels himself has written and delivered stand–up, so I asked him the following question; “Do you feel less control when others read/tell your jokes due to the importance of ‘voice’ in comedy?”
From this, he responded that the ‘playing’ of Haywood and Bartram with his ‘words’ was a joy to watch as they opened out his discourse and took his jokes to make them their own. After watching the production, I couldn’t agree more.
Finally, the social conscience of the play was made explicit after its conclusion – the audience was handed leaflets that illustrated charities in the West Midlands area, focusing on loneliness and helping people who feel such isolation. The reason for this is that Joe’s character, although acerbically drawn, suffered from such a melancholic situation. Thereafter, not only did I come out of the Crescent Theatre having laughed but I was also forced to contemplate an issue that deserves attention. And so, I believe the play was remarkable, considerate, and above all…funny.