Parodies of familiar tales are a well-loved staple of comedic storytelling. Everyone from the Carry On films to Spike Milligan and Mel Brooks have successfully employed this strategy, often injecting social satire into the mirth. With this in mind, theatre company Happy Idiot have taken inspiration from DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and added some of their own ‘twists’ to the proceedings.
Written by Lawrence Russell (who also plays Lord Clifford Chatterley) and directed by Ben Simpson, the show follows the basic plot of the novel, albeit in a streamlined fashion. From the off, Chatterley’s ‘size’ becomes the focus of attention, in comparison to his future wife’s height, setting himself for future Freudian repartee. Later, following his exploits during the First World War, Chatterley ‘feels like a new man’ (or something more akin to The Rocky Horror Show)…
As Lady Constance (‘Connie’) Chatterley, Christina Baston is a gifted comedienne, able to coax laughter through her facial expressions and intonation. Regardless of how ‘normal’ a scene starts out as, Baston is able to tap into the potential ‘awkwardness’ of a situation and flesh out its comedic value.
Playing the aforementioned ‘Lover’, the gamekeeper Mellors, Wesley Griffith’s character walks a fine line between being forthright, ‘naive’ and comfortable in his own skin. While some of this outlook ‘rubs off’ from ‘John Thomas’ to ‘Lady Jane’ (Mellors’ and Connie’s private nicknames for ‘each other’), we find Mellors is more circumspect in the company of Lord Chatterley, as their class status very much keeps them at arms’ length.
One of my favourite scenes in the show evokes the funny, yet ‘sad’ dynamic between ‘Ted’ and ‘Ralph’ in The Fast Show – an unexpected dose of pathos. It is revealed that Mellors has been a perennial companion to Clifford – often keeping his lordship from harm’s way, but almost never remembered, except as an unkind nickname. The way the scene is executed is very funny, yet also very poignant as the one-sided dynamic could be said to be a comment on individual relationships, as well as the depicition of social classes in the classic tale.
Completing the foursome on stage is the talented Rebecca McClay, who not only plays Connie’s sister Hilda, but also the servant Mrs Bolton. As Bolton, McClay often steals the scenes that she is in, as the character not only does the most ‘outrageous’ things, but ‘after the fact’ has a ‘rational’ explanation for her actions.
The one thing that all the cast excel at is being totally ‘sincere’ in the moment. No matter how bizarre or surreal the ‘plot twists’ are, the events are all taken in their stride – a neverending source of amusement to our sensibilities.
Another positive aspect of the show is that you don’t need to have previous knowledge of the source material. Much of what makes the show funny stems from the characters’ reactions (who are often oblivious to obvious truths) or their lack of comprehension of certain situations.
While the news – particuarly this week – has been grim, Not: Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a tonic for these troubled times.
© Michael Davis 2021
Not: Lady Chatterley’s Lover ran at The Core Theatre, Solihull on 28th September. The show continues its UK tour this Autumn at these venues:
1st October – Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Road, Didcot, OX11 7NE
2nd October – The Berry Theatre, Wildern Lane, Hedge End, Southampton, SO30 4EJ
4th – 6th October – White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings, East Sussex, TN34 1JX
8th October – Theatre Royal Wakefield, Drury Lane, Wakefield, WF1 2TE
9th October – Helmsley Arts Centre, Meeting House Court, Helmsley, YO62 5DW
10th October – Pyramid Arts Centre, Palmrya Square, Warrington, WA1 1BL
12th October – Theatr Colwyn, Abergele Road, Colwyn Bay, LL29 7RU
13th October – Royal Hall, 6 Oxford Street, Harrogate, HG1 1QF
14th October – The Swan Theatre, Huntingdon Hall, Crown Gate, Worcester, WR1 3LD
15th October – Albany Theatre, Albany Road, Coventry, CV5 6JQ
17th – 18th October – Palace Theatre, Appletongate, Newark, NG24 1JY
19th October – Civic Theatre, Fairfield Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1JG
20th October – Key Theatre, Haig Hall, Brook Street, Peterborough, PE1 1TU
21st October – The Elgiva, St Mary’s Way, Chesham, Buckinghamshire, HP5 1HR
22nd October – Theatre Royal Winchester, 21-23 Jewry Street, Winchester, SO23 8SB https://www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk/
26th October – Forum Theatre, 28 Duke Street, Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, LA14 1HH https://www.theforumbarrow.co.uk/
3rd November – Forum Theatre Billingham, Queensway, Stockton-on-Tees, TS23 2LJ https://forumtheatrebillingham.co.uk/
4th – 5th November – The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport, PR8 1DB
7th November – Howden Park Centre, Howden, Livingston, West Lothian, EH54 6AE http://www.howdenparkcentre.co.uk/
8th November – Tyne Theatre and Opera House, 117 Westgate Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 4AG
13th November – Darwen Library Theatre, Knott Street, Darwen, BB3 3BU
14th November – Brierley Hill Civic Hall, Bank Street, Brierley Hill, West Midlands, DY5 3DH
16th November – Hazlitt Theatre, Earl St, Maidstone ME14 1PL
18th November – Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe, EX34 9BZ
20th November – Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1JP
21st November – The Civic, Martins Way, Stourport-on-Severn, DY13 8UJ