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.