Stage Society’s The Third Mariachi has been highly anticipated in the last few weeks and sold out for its two night run at Fearon Hall on November 23rd and 24th.
The scene has been set for a British couple to live the ‘American dream’ – to bring an American diner back to life with a British twist. The only problem is that being its location on the New Mexico border and unknown to Harry and his wife the previous owner was also leading a cocaine smuggling operation.
In eager expectancy of customers, Harry opens shop and his precious diner is graced by the American locals, authorities and, at the end of act one, three confused Mexicans.
Imagine Fawlty Towers in New Mexico and you have experienced Harry’s Diner. That is not, however, to fault or undermine the production. Student writers and directors Josh Reynolds and Sebastian de Cabo Portugal previously told Label that Fawlty Towers was amongst their inspirations for the play but they have certainly crafted and constructed their own comedy for their audiences. The play is shaped around comical stereotypes, mistaken identities, cultural misunderstandings, and farcical routines involving multiple doors and unconscious bodies and a little shot of toilet humour for good measure. These guys know which boxes to tick for an amusing comedy, that’s for sure. Its success is largely hinged on the stressed and equally awkward Harry Holiday (John Skerritt) who at times is like a younger version of British comedy greats: Basil Fawlty, Black Adder or perhaps, Uncle Bryn. The strength of this character with the concoction of all the other characters – a junkie, a biker, a cop, a seductive wife and a naive waitress make a near-perfect recipe for comedy.
The first act presented a very able cast with a good understanding of what made their character’s personalities humorous for an audience – especially the Cop (Alice De-Warrenne Waller) and Jonny (Sam Morris). It is also worth noting commitment to the American (and Scouse) accents, which is not always an easy thing to maintain but the cast did so with a comical grace. Every single one of the stereotyped characters and plot lines were set up appetizingly to serve us in the second act, particularly after the arrival of the much anticipated and conspicuous Mariachis.
Thankfully, the cast served up hot, despite having a heavily physical and farcical second half to deliver. The multiple doors designed within the set were used to full effect, for a painfully funny routine of hiding drugs, bodies and really needing the toilet. The performance was physically demanding in all of its absurdity but was sustained and controlled by a strong cast and good direction. The silent comedy of the three matriarchs wore thin at points but was won back by some of the best moments – including the outburst of cocaine and their laborious effort to sweep it up.
Little did it matter that the ending of the story was relatively fleeting because the establishment of the characters and predicaments were the real deal. Things got madly funny; each character, each twist and turn consistently getting the laughs they deserved. The play was also reminiscent of Richard Bean’s highly successful adaptation One Man Two Guvnors, as well as Fawlty Towers. However, Josh and Seb have proved themselves as first-time comedy writers, with a great example of what makes comedy work and what gets the laughs. It was certainly an entertaining piece of theatre and the Stage Society should be proud of producing a wholly student-made play if this is the standard of its new writing.