The comic team that brought us Boeing-Boeing and Perfect Wedding have come out with another hit comedy in Funny Business, showing at Cape Town's Theatre on the Bay until 9 June, 2012.
Written by Derek Benfield and directed by Alan Swerdlow, Funny Business takes place in an "unfashionable hotel" in the outskirts of London. It's there that we meet Ferris, the acting manager who wants nothing more than a nap on the couch. But there's no time for that. Guests keep arriving, identities keep getting mistaken, and understandings keep getting, um, misunderstood. If that sounds like the recipe for some farcical fun, you're right.
But there's a lot more to Funny Business than the slapstick humour reminiscent of Fawlty Towers. Specifically, the show is a great example of comic improv at its best. Alan Committie (Defending the Caveman) and Robert Fridjhon have such a great time coming up with jokes on the spot, based on audience reactions or whatever else pops into their heads. It's really impressive to see these two award-winning leads work their magic!
Finding the sweet spot
And yet diverting from the script is also a risky move. On the one hand, the jokes could crash and burn in a pile-up of puns that leaves the audience cringing more than anything else. On the other hand, the jokes could work so well that the audience is laughing too loudly to hear the next line. (There were also times when the other cast members - brilliant work by Bronwyn Leigh, Jacquelyn de Villiers, Matthew Lotter, and Neville Thomas - couldn't help but chuckle as well.)
For the most part, the show manages to avoid these extremes and finds a sweet spot in the middle. Yes, one or two jokes didn't quite work (probably because they came and went too quickly), but Committie and Fridjhon turned the lack of laughs into a joke in itself. It takes some serious skill to make an audience go from passive observers to active participants, but these guys have what it takes. That's what makes the show worth seeing and what makes me eager to see what shenanigans they'll get up to next.
Funny Business is showing at Cape Town's Theatre on the Bay until 9 June, 2012 (although some performances are already sold out). Tickets start at R90 and can be purchased from Computicket or by calling +27 (0)21 438 3301.