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Catherine Geoghegan

Comedians at the Union Theatre

Comedians is a play that examines the philosophy and intentions behind laughter and comedy.

While at times it provokes laughter, the real purpose is to take a deep and possibly painful look at society.

Comedians, written by Trevor Griffiths and set in Manchester in the 1970s, is about a six not so well off men attending an evening stand up comedy class. The play is performed in three acts as they prepare for a certain talent contest, do their acts, and then talk about it afterwards.

Their teacher is Eddie Waters, the esteemed, elderly gentleman played brilliantly by Maitland Chandler. He tries to teach his students that comedy should be enlightening rather than damaging – that a good comedian could prod an audience along to healing rather than pick on stereotypes.

The students range from a shaven head, angry at the world anarchist (Ian Groombridge), to two Irishmen- George (Luke Cameron) and Mick (Aidan Crowley) from the north and south living in England during the height of IRA activity. There's a Manchester Jew (Sammy Samuels), and two Lancastrian brothers who fight as if they still were going through adolescence. They all bring to the stage their desire to ascend to a better life than the one they know through their chance in the spotlight, while much of their hurt and pain spills out in their routines.

Lastly there is the adjudicator (Antony Wise) who light heartedly explains that real comedy is stereotypes and pain, thus potentially undoing all the good Waters might have done.

The play is stunning. The acting is spectacular, the script thought provoking, and the mood is intimate. It is very easily a play worth any one's time.

• Comedians continues at The Union Theatre until Saturday 27 March.

• 020 7261 9876

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