Flag by Brian Marchbank, is an insightful study of stand-up comedy. The two-hander, which first premiered at the 24:7 theatre festival, begins with a Faustian proposition. Mark, a slimy writer for artists on the alternative comedy circuit, approaches Jimmy, a middle-aged comic from the working mens’ clubs, and asks him to become his own creation– the vile Corporal Gordon Flag.
Of course, like any pact, there are conditions and consequences. Darren Scott completely inhabits the role of the washed up comic Jimmy Earl. With his slumped shoulders and hangdog face, it is hard to see imagine Scott as anyone else but the downtrodden Earl, until he transforms into the offensive Corporal Flag. Matthew Stead is the writer/agent Mark, whose ambiguous agenda sets the suspense
With its shabby charm, Studio Salford just above the pub the Kings Head is the perfect venue for the play, which takes place mainly backstage, or up on the boards. Director Rebecca Taylor, assisted by Jeff Butler, makes good use of audio and lighting to switch location. This is especially effective when Mark Poste’s creation performs directly to the audience, involving them, making fun of them and giving them a taste of what a Corporal Flag comedy gig is really like.
Writer Brian Marchbank has written a play, which is genuinely funny. But there is a contemporary message between the laughs, for the comic monster he creates has lines which could have come straight from the mouth of comedians such as Frankie Boyle.
The argument used to persuade comic Jimmy Earl to perform such offensive material is that of irony, but when laughter is replaced with venom and hatred, how far is too far?