Who could not love The Flop? This ribald French farce delivers more and better belly-laughs than any stand-up comic I’ve seen on the Fringe this year. Wales’ inclusive theatre company Hijinks takes as its premise the impotency trials in 17th Century France, where marital misalignment could see couples forced to prove their Congress in front of a judge.
The fun begins with a band without their double-bass player. It turns into a bawdy, bouncy affair of bad puns, wigs, ruffs, flouncy dresses and daft wit, in a kind of sly post-modern pantomime.
The Marquis De Langey (Iain Gibbons) has married his delicious young bride Marie (Jess Mabel Jones) but they don’t know what to do in the bedroom except play spoons. Uproar ensues in the household over the lack of an offspring; among various riotously risqué scenes, the servants march on the noble bedroom, urging the couple to their elusive consummation in a thoroughly lewd chorus. The Marquis faces the Weiner inspectors, armed with elongated rubber gloves; we get a flash of the Marquise’ bare bottom. In between there’s all kinds of bumbling with chef’s hats and suitcases; Jonathan Pugh is excellent as the Manservant who just can’t get through the door. It ends with everyone in bed, including two audience volunteers, as the cast clamber wildly and out of the fourth wall.
The Flop was in the running for the Total Theatre award in the category of Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form. It lost out in that category to Pussy Riot, the Russian rebel punk-rockers performing a stage show about their own turbulent history of protest, in the same Summerhall venue. Bad call by the judges in my book (Hijinx Theatre’s 2016 show Meet Fred was an award-winner and won Wales Theatre Awards as well).
The Edinburgh Fringe this year has been shaped by an age of anxiety, running from mental health and #metoo to Brexit. Amid tremulous times The Flop was the best antidote, ladling out the laughter therapy in dollops. The fact that it included three learning-disabled actors and three non-disabled actors, including former Fringe First winner Hannah McPake, only added to richness to the period absurdity.