By Sarah Matthews
“The year is 1984. Well, it’s not. The year is actually 2019. But at one point in time, for about a year, the year was 1984. And in 1984, Alan Chipperfield, a neurotic man from East London, needed to pay his electric bill by the end of the day.” So starts The Dark Side of the Room, a new comedy written and directed by Con Coutis.
From the second the house lights are dimmed, the commentary between Alan (Coutis), his best friend Simon (Charlie Hill), and Simon’s ex-girlfriend Roxanne (Agata Dmochowska) was fast-paced, clever, and most of all, funny. Coutis expertly weaves witty dialogue, running gags and sophisticated wordplay together with the kind of inherent humour that makes it seem as if every line was written to be quoted. These were brought to life by the palpable chemistry between the three actors. Dmochowska’s perfectly timed facial expressions amplified the slapstick shenanigans of Hill, whilst Coutis’ attention to the delivery of his jokes frequently left the audience in stitches. The actors didn’t miss a beat as they performed the fast-paced work in impressive British accents.
Attention to detail was evident in every aspect of the performance. Each moment of synchronised physical comedy was flawless in its execution and the dialogue moved so quickly it seemed as if the actors barely drew a breath. Even the marketing leading up to The Dark Side of the Room’s debut was excellent, with a personal favourite being the ‘Meet the Props’ segment which emblematised Coutis’ uncanny ability to make anything funny.
Although the Dark Side of the Room is unmistakably a comedy, its one notable tragedy is that it only ran for a three-night season. The Melbourne comedy scene is in great need of more plays like Coutis’. Unlike the (admittedly iconic) 80s-era costumes, witty repartee and brilliant comedic timing will never go out of style – and the raucous laughter that filled Club Voltaire over those three nights proved this to be true.
The Dark Side of the Room, presented by Plain English Theatre, premiered in the Melbourne Fringe Festival on the 12th – 14th September at Club Voltaire.