There’s some stereotyping in Doomed Resistance, but Simon Godfrey’s script is perceptive enough to not only point it out, but make a meal of it. More than the usual level of suspension of disbelief is required to even get one’s head around what precisely is happening in a storyline set in World War One but with its characters having distinctly twenty-first century outlooks and assumptions. It may, for some, make the show unnecessarily complicated, but it works here insofar as it allows the show’s humour to punch above its weight.
An example: there’s a delightful few lines in which Private Herman Schmidt (Matthew Warhurst) tells Major-General Erich Ludendorff (Tea Poldervaart) the horses within the Major-General’s command have not been given their full entitlement of scheduled rest breaks. What then happens to the horses (nothing bad, quite the contrary, in fact) to make amends for this error is charmingly hilarious, and, without giving too much away, brings modern-day equality guidelines to another level.
In one sense, there’s a feeling of ‘here we go again’ in the caricaturing of both German and Belgian characters. Again, the accompanying observations dampen any uneasiness or umbrage that may otherwise have been taken. There’s a need to go with the flow with this play: I could burst several blood vessels detailing the various inconsistencies in the plot. But most, if not all of them, are explored in the dialogue one way or another anyway. If anything, it can be a tad overblown on occasion – a gag about the Commander (at this performance, Simon Godfrey, standing in for Ryan Penny) impersonating an off-stage character’s voice went on a little too long.
It’s all silliness personified, and while the style of humour won’t suit everyone, a lot of laughter emanated from this cultured Camden Fringe Festival audience. While certain Shakespeare plays, for instance, will begin by apologising for the limitations of bringing a story to life on the stage, Doomed Resistance exploits similar limitations to their fullest extent. The pacing is spot on, brisk but not hurried, with a sense of urgency whenever required (there’s a war on, y’see) and time for reflection either for tactical thinking or to catch up on correspondence from home. Overall, the pauses and comic timing are admirable.
Private Schmidt is one of those pleasant but ineffective sidekicks, perhaps like Baldrick in the Blackadder BBC Television series, or Private Pike in Dad’s Army. In the increasingly bombastic outbursts from Ludendorff, it becomes clear that one lie has been told, and then another to cover up the previous one, and so on. Ludendorff loves his cats, but it’s the Commander that comes across as though he were a pet dog who, confronted by his owner after clearly causing some destruction in the home, flatly denies anything untoward has happened.
The wider implications in the themes that are brought out in this play are far-reaching. The truth-bending on both sides calls to mind any number of current affairs, presidential or parliamentary elections, even trade disputes. An incredibly witty and insightful production, performed with great aplomb.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Falling Pennies charges into the Camden Fringe with a hilarious farce that’ll have you rolling in the trenches.
Belgium, 1914. When Major-General Erich Ludendorff discovers his army is missing, he hatches a plot to bluff the enemy into surrender. But Ludendorff finds it’s never a good idea to interrupt your enemy’s bath time.
Booking to Monday 7th August 2017