Comedians Push Boundaries with Dark Comedy Play, ‘Family Treasons’

If I’ve learned anything from watching comedians in Salford this past week, it’s that they sure know how to cross boundaries, and this has never been more apparent than in Salford’s latest sinful spectacle, Family Treasons.

The comedy play, written by Michael Hartless, reveals the counselling sessions for a mixed group of psychologically damaged individuals led by the Jim Jones-esque sociopath, and descendant to both Apache Chief and Confucius – Wolf, who extracts his members’ deepest, most darkest repressed memories using the unconventional method of time travel… and bullying.

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Wolf

His regulars include: 

  • Viv; the promiscuous, high-heeled cougar with an empty head and plump chest who kicked off the show with a seemingly innocent 80’s lip-synch.
  • June; the child-like figure of the group who has devoted her life to her counselling…and Asda.
  • Donna; the eccentric self-proclaimed reincarnation of ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

“Every girl needs a Cher wig” – Viv

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Martin

Then enter Martin; the bearded, bespectacled fellow who quickly finds himself to be the outcast of this excessively abnormal assortment, and becomes the first to question Wolf’s unorthodox techniques; igniting hatred in the pack’s Alpha towards this hipster heathen.

Within the face off between the two male roles, we delve deep into the lives of the members and why they’re giving Wolf his wealth of PayPal transactions in the first place. From abusive grandmothers to incestuous fathers, from brain tumours to mother-daughter prostitution careers, the audience is left feeling almost violated at such rip-roaringly crude stories that they (almost ashamedly) shriek in laughter to.

As casts go, they were all-encompassing. June’s virginal aura balanced out Viv’s outrageously whorish demeanor, and Wolf’s Mao-style arrogance was constantly challenged by Martin’s timid yet torrid stubbornness to defy him.
And Donna – well she was something else.

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Despite a lack of scene changes (the meeting room pictured above being the only setting used), the story maintained itself from the outset and the audience was refreshed with musical numbers and reference to the non-existent, all-seeing receptionist that sat backstage. On top of this, we quickly realise that not everything is as it seems in this quaint office room, as tensions between Wolf and Martin only heighten as the play goes on; resulting in something that no one watching could’ve expected.

After witnessing this gold dust of amateur comedic theatre, I couldn’t help but wonder what it must’ve been like playing such outlandish characters, so I sat down with Michael Hartless, both writer and character in the play as he briefly explained his influences and what it’s like playing a character like Wolf.

As Hartless mentioned, influences come from other dark comedies such as The League of Gentlemen  which aired over 17 years ago, had several spin-offs, and won numerous awards in both television and radio.

Family Treasons runs for two days only  – the 1st & 2nd of December 2016 at the Robert Powell Theatre, but I have no doubts that more of Salford and Manchester will be seeing them soon.

To follow them on Twitter, click here. 

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Images are either my own or granted permission.

Evaluation:

Again, the venue for this comedy play was located near me at the Robert Powell Theatre and so I had easy access to it with no issues about how to get there. Similar to the previous post, I learned of the event from the student posting on Facebook pages associated with the students at the University of Salford. However, this time I didn’t inquire about getting an interview until after the play had finished, at which point I was given access back stage and had a short audio interview with one of the main characters and writer of the play, Michael Hartless. This time, I uploaded the interview on Soundcloud for more of a variety of media between the posts.  However, l struggled again to think of how I would input data journalism into the post appropriately.

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