When was the last time you had all your beliefs challenged? Actually, not just your beliefs but everything you currently know to be true? It probably doesn’t happen that often to be honest but if you would like to give it a go then pop along to Islington and go and see Paul Lichtenstern and James Thomson’s play Laughing Matter which is having its world premiere at the King’s Head Theatre.
Now, unusually, I’m not going to tell you much about the play itself, and the reason for this will become obvious once you get to the theatre. Even when you buy the programme, which is in the form of a play text, you are advised not to look at any of it before seeing the show. Believe me when I say, this is the best bit of advice you will receive all day. The show is essentially split into three parts. Both my companion and I on the day really enjoyed the first and third but disagreed about the relevance and meaning of the middle section. This, rather interestingly, went to prove that at least some of the revelations made in the first section concerning personal perception were indeed accurate.
So, if I can’t tell you much about the story of Laughing Matter what can I write about? Well, the writing, by Paul Lichtenstern (who also Directs) and James Thomson is first rate and raises some important issues that the mind has to wrestle with. For example the entire concept of theatre which, when you think about it, is to make reality disappear and have everybody believe in a lie. Now this is something that we do subconsciously which means that in reality (whatever that is) we are not in control of what we believe or accept as truth. Many thanks to Paul and James for giving me that concept to deal with. There is more and some of the assertions made, led to an interesting and unexpected discussion after the show. Or did they? Were we being manipulated by the writers? After all, if we hadn’t been to see the show, we wouldn’t be having the conversation about reality would we? I honestly can’t fault the writing of Laughing Matter. Although I have to say that if I was correct in my interpretation of the middle section, then it could possibly do with being shortened slightly.
I will also say that my reaction to the character of James (played by James Thomson) changed many times during the play. At first I found him quite fascinating, then as we moved into the middle section, where he interacts with his dad (Keith Hill) I started to get very annoyed with him and thought he was a little bit obnoxious, but as the conversations went on, I changed my opinion of him again so that by the end, I found him to be quite a likeable lad once more. It was skillfully played by James and Keith, whose portrayal of James’ dad really struck a chord with me and some of the occasionally heated conversations I have had over the years with my own father. Very nice and believable chemistry between the two actors.
Finally then, Laughing Matter is a wonderfully unusual play that challenges just about everything and left me realising that every bad decision I’ve ever made in my life has not been my fault. Mind you I can’t take credit for the good ones either. Laughing Matter is inspiring in the way it makes its audience sit up and think about themselves and their place in a Universe which, when all’s said and done, doesn’t actually care about them anyway.
If you want something different and challenging from your theatrical experiences then Laughing Matter should definitely be on your radar.
Review by Terry Eastham
When you died everything was thrown into sharp focus, because it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter that you died. But it’s still so sh*t.’
James is a theatre maker. He was developing a verbatim piece about family, using secret recordings of mundane conversations with his own family as stimulus, when – quite unexpectedly – his dad died.
Free will is an illusion and the universe is massive. Everything is an accident and everything is a story. All the world’s a stage. That chair is a gravestone. So how can anything matter?
End of Moving Walkway return to the King’s Head Theatre following its critically acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller’s The Man Who Had All the Luck and the What’s On Stage nominated production of Will Eno’s Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions.
29th June to 16th July 2016