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Comedy not to be sneezed at

PUBLISHED: 17:01 07 August 2009 | UPDATED: 17:16 16 August 2010

SNEEZY DOES IT: Toby Eddington , David Fensom, Elyse Marks and Trudy Elizabeth Hodgson.

SNEEZY DOES IT: Toby Eddington , David Fensom, Elyse Marks and Trudy Elizabeth Hodgson.

CHEKHOV may not spring to mind when you mention comedy, but you d be surprised at just what the BlackSun theatre group has achieved

CHEKHOV may not spring to mind when you mention comedy, but you'd be surprised at just what the BlackSun theatre group has achieved with their latest production, writes Mark Campbell.

100% Comedy 100% Chekhov is an intriguingly titled quartet of short plays, running at the Greenwich Playhouse.

It opens with The Sneeze, a brisk mime very much in the style of Mr Bean.

During an opera, a minor government official accidentally sneezes over the head of one of his seniors and tries desperately to dispose of the evidence.

David Fensom's body language as the unfortunate sneezer is hilarious and the entire piece is choreographed brilliantly to Aliabiev's haunting song The Nightingale.

The second play, The Bear, is the most focused of the night. A gruff Northern farmer (Fensom again) enters and demands money from a bereaved widow (Trudy Elizabeth Hogson).

But despite railing against the sins of womanhood, he soon finds himself falling inexorably in love with her - and she with him - until they end up in each other's arms.

The Jubilee settles for an escalating series of misunderstandings set in a provincial bank office with a David Brent-like manager (Fensom) and his moaning old bookkeeper (Toby Eddington).

But the appearance of the manager's talkative young wife (Elyse Marks) and a mad woman trying to claim compensation soon causes the tranquil scene to descend into chaos.

The last piece, The Wedding, presents a timeless picture of a drunken middle-class wedding reception, the comedy aided enormously by the cast of four playing twelve different characters - a thirteenth being played by an unwitting member of the audience!

Jinyi Tang's sound design is immensely effective, while the flashbulb tableaux that ends each sketch, courtesy of Sam Smith and Barra Collins' lighting, makes an imaginative 'punchline'.

This is a vibrant and surprisingly funny evening's entertainment, of which director Jemma Gross should be very proud.

100% Comedy 100% Chekhov is at the Greenwich Playhouse until this Sunday, August 16. Call the box office on 020 8858 9256. The play is also at AbbeyFest in the Colour House Theatre from next Monday (17) until Saturday, August 22. Call the box office on 07805 777376 or go to www.abbeyfest.co.uk.

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