For his second journey into the 24:7 Theatre festival, writer Brian Marchbank has created Flag, a play set in the dressing room of a club comedian. An intriguing concept to begin with, the device provides a useful tool to allow us a taste of the comedian’s set, as well as a window into his private world.
Flag is directed by Rebecca Taylor, herself a retired stand-up comedian, who imparts her professional knowledge and experience on the production.
Mark Poste (Matthew Stead) is a successful young comedy writer who has created a new comic persona, Corporal Flag, which he bullies washed up club comedian Jimmy Earl (Darren Scott) to become. The character is a controversial, bigoted monster, whose set would have even the likes of Bernard Manning cringing.
The two-hander of unlikeable characters are played convincingly with strong and capable performances from both actors, unflinching in the face of their toe-curling material. The play is well written, with some actual funny lines peppering the repulsive rants of Corporal Flag and a satisfying ending that gives the bad guy his comeuppance.
The material is, however, very offensive in its nature, so it takes an open-mind audience member to bear that in mind when they are literally faced with the outrageous comedian.
Taylor creates an interesting picture of a seedy and destructive world, simplified by its lack of locations and scene changes. The sound recording of Flag’s set is well crafted and cleverly used to open or close each scene. However, the simplicity of the set and props called to question the need for two stage managers who distracted from the action, when the changes could have been much cleaner and easier if undertaken by the actors.