Flood Theatre again. Kickstarting the comedy resistance so you don’t have to.
I apologise in advance for both these sketches’ lack of contempt for the weak – or ‘edge’, as Channel 4 call it.
Laughter in dark times becomes necessary, providing both critique and consolation. And the nights are certainly drawing in. I mean, look at all this. Or, on what seems by comparison a light note, this surreal attempt to humanise the employees of an organisation geared solely towards turning a profit by trading in hatred and tits.
Satire has never seemed so conspicuous by its absence. It is one thing to see corruption, incompetence and venality occasionally exposed; it is quite another to see so many practitioners of corruption, incompetence and venality incessantly expose themselves with the bafflingly brazen insouciance of compulsive flashers drunk in a town park. So the news has turned horribly, endlessly funny – far funnier than any current attempt to dissect or diagnose its disgustingness. Look at this, or this, or the point at which the dark arts of spin, the erosion of journalistic enquiry, and the vacuum at the heart of the Labour Party coalesced to form a revelatory moment of pantomime androidry – and how quaint, how nearly comforting, how spot-on then but now unremarkable those past satirical visions seem, eh?
The lunatic reality of contemporary politics is galloping ahead of satire by significant furlongs, and few seem capable of or even interested in catching up. Which is where Flood Theatre come in.
Flood takes all the above into account, and styles itself ’the new comedy for the new politics’. In soundscapes and sketches drawn with a dramatic flair for language and a fine sense of the absurd, it outlines our rats’ nest of politics, media and society with unflinching precision.
There’s a long and noble history of art that takes life in all its grim, bleak splendour and manages to wring out disbelieving laughter. There’s been Chris Morris, there is Stewart Lee, and, soon, there will be Flood.
Flood perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, August 5th-27th. Book now.
Masturbation is never far from the mind when surveying the current state of mainstream British comedy, besmirched as it is with the self-absorbed and self-indulgent spatterings of established onanists. Flood’s philosophy, though, is the timely and welcome exhortation: ‘Don’t just sit in and wank’.
Flood Theatre is a new enterprise representing several young actors, directors and writers drawn predominantly from the East 15 Acting School. Their first performance of The Suicide of the Rev. Lens took place in Islington’s Old Red Lion Theatre before a respectably large and appreciative crowd. Boxed-in and wilting in relentless midsummer heat as we were, the venue’s incipiently claustrophobic atmosphere aptly set the tone for a journey into Flood’s unsettling, murky and merciless world.
The production’s titular creation is a fulminating clergyman equally cursed and blessed with the ability to detect the cardinal sin of self-love. Around this central conceit, the seven cast members weave a loose narrative of episodic sketches and musical interludes. Their material blends darkly surreal digressions with incisive dissections of socio-political absurdities, hitting the usual government and media targets but also taking in an inventory of irritants ranging from the Free Hugs campaign to homeopathy to the vagaries of mental health diagnosis.
Flood deftly take inspiration from the surrealist and satirical work of Chris Morris. The show’s curiously haunting arrangements of prog-rock and indie recall the ambience of Blue Jam, and his influence is visible too in sketches touching on incest, paedophilia and abuse within the Catholic Church, in which uncertain laughter is shocked from the audience rather than cued or coaxed.
The presiding tone is one of intelligent irreverence, avoiding both gratuitous puerility and the laboured haranguing which plagues much overtly political comedy, edged with a fine sense of the absurd and grotesque. Flood is an engaging and important new arrival.
The last time I saw Carl Barat, he was still playing a rock star. Dirty Pretty Things’ final gig brought down the curtain on a part he played exceptionally well. A year on from their demise, out in the wilds of west London, Neil Sheppeck’s production of Sam Shepherd’s Fool for Love sees Barat audition for a different role. He’s always been a performer, with the Libertines’ and DPT’s gang mentality a fairly transparent protection against chronic insecurity and fear of isolation. There’s a similar protection afforded by having a part to play – a costume to wear and a script to follow which relieves the worry about being judged on your own merits. Doing so for a living seems a logical if precarious next step.