May the Farce Be with You

Roger Foss
Oberon Masters

May the Farce Be with You

There is no question that this trip down memory lane is a labour of love for Roger Foss. The sometime actor, journalist, broadcaster and author clearly fell for farce at a young age and has been deliriously enamoured of it ever since.

As with fans of musicals, he can sometimes protest a little too much in his efforts to persuade readers, whom he believes will be cynical, that farce is as great an art form as tragedy.

Most would probably not agree with this analysis but might well acccept the principle that the best farces will give their paying customers the kind of side-splitting night out that might be very much needed in these recessionary times.

This Oberon Master is rather more an extended essay than a full-scale history of farce. For the most part, Foss concentrates on the era of Ray Cooney and Brian Rix, in his eyes the greatest of post-war farceurs.

Perhaps the most significant chapter of the book is "A Conversation with Cooney", in which the interviewer gushes enthusiastically at the feet of one of his great heroes.

There is also a little earlier history stretching back to the days of Aristophanes through Samuel Pepys, commedia dell’Arte and the Victorian period experts such as Feydeau and Pinero to Ben Travers a generation later.

Repeatedly though, Foss returns to more recent favourites, bringing in not only stage productions but also TV series such as I Love Lucy and Fawlty Towers.

The eighth and final chapter is entitled "Fifty Farces to See before You Die Laughing" and attempts to produce just that. Some might quibble as to whether every selection, ranging from straight (well not really) plays and stage musicals to film and TV, is really a farce at all. What they undoubtedly represent in pretty much every case is an opportunity to laugh yourself silly.

It may be slight but for lovers of the art form, May the Farce Be with You will inevitably bring back many happy memories.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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