The sight of deluded Brits groping in the dark and alienating their European neighbours holds up a dark mirror to Brexit Britain.
Peter Shaffer’s one-act play premiered in 1965. It features an aspiring young sculptor who has invited a German art dealer to his flat in the hope of selling one of his pieces and making his name in the art world.
His carefully planned scheme for the evening descends into utter chaos following a blackout and the unwanted arrival of several characters, including a previous girlfriend, the current father-in-law and an alcoholic neighbour.
For the audience, the play starts in total darkness when, in the world of the play, the lights are on. When the blackout hits, the stage is lit, and the performers move as if they are in pitch blackness. It is a clever gimmick that guarantees laughter by marrying exaggerated physical performances to Comedy of Errors-style misunderstandings and a consistently sharp script.
Instead of boosting his career, our sculptor friend Brindsley ends up trying to save his skin amid the madness his greed has unleashed.
While Black Comedy is a light-hearted farce, there was something very contemporary and troubling about a group of Brits flailing around in the dark. Brindsley needs a generous offer from Europe to escape poverty but ends up offending his visitor and wrecking any hope of a deal.
One can only hope Black Comedy isn’t too precise a metaphor for Brexit Britain, and the lights in Westminster and Whitehall go up more quickly than they did in Surbiton.