An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman are on a ship. The Englishman slips and falls overboard. The Scotsman yells "Throw him a buoy!", so the Irishman hurls the cabin boy into the sea. "I meant a cork buoy!" shouts the Scotsman. "How am I supposed to know what part of Ireland he comes from?", says the Irishman.
We know this is a joke, but why? Is it just offensive stereotyping? What does it really mean? And is it funny? The Joke picks apart our ideas of comedy as its three, hapless characters — an Englishman, a Scotsman and a (Northern) Irishman — find themselves locked in a theatre, an expectant audience waiting, trapped inside a hackneyed joke.
Written by former Perrier Award winner Will Adamsdale, The Joke takes the deceptively simple concept of actors, a bare stage and no script, and draws out philosophy, drama, and plenty of humour — like Waiting for Godot reimagined for the stand-up era.
Adamsdale, a slightly squashed Will Carling, is the quintessential Englishman — passive aggressive and entitled. His meltdown takes most of the play to build up and, when it comes, is spectacular and hilarious. The Irishman is Lloyd Hutchinson, respected classical actor and natural comedian; and the Scotsman is none other than Brian Logan, director of the Camden People’s Theatre and the Guardian's comedy critic — one of very few people as happy on-stage as off.
Watching this trio as they clown, rant, improvise and stomp all over a very small stage is a treat. Their timing is exquisite as they fully immerse us in a surreal world of inflatable desert islands, cardboard telescopes, over-polished decks and repeated attempts to name all the Marx Brothers.
From an unfunny joke, they spin out an evening of hilarity and theatrical sophistication that make the boundaries between comedy and theatre seem entirely irrelevant.
The Joke by Will Adamsdale runs at the Camden People’s Theatre until 4 June. Tickets £12 (£10 concessions). Londonist saw the production on a complimentary ticket.