I have to admit, I love to see a good literary classic being harangued by a comedy company. Having sat through two awfully serious performances earlier in the day, I headed into to Happy Idiot’s Not Lady Chatterley’s Lover with high hopes for a good laugh. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. This has to be one of the funniest takes on a classic at the Fringe this year.
This show delivers what it says on the tin: a Mel-Brooks-style farcical romp through one of the English language’s most controversial novels. Sir Clifford Chatterley has returned home from war, a hero who has lost his legs in battle… and had them replaced by a shapely woman’s fishnet-adorned ones. Constance Chatterley needs a lover that will satisfy her, and turns to Oliver Mellors, the brooding Northern gamekeeper. Lady Chatterley's physical needs are realised fairly early on, and she spends very little time in angst over it; the novel’s side characters, with the exception of a brilliantly-realised Mrs Bolton, are hardly mentioned. It all adds up to an exceptionally fast-paced whirl through Lawrence’s story.
Obviously, there are a lot of sex gags. A couple of them aren’t as successful as others, and unfortunately they’re often the ones we’re hit over the head with, but most of the humour does work well. The sly innuendoes, Mellor’s sexual prowess, and Sir Chatterley’s can-can legs were all hits with the audience.
Yet there is poignancy too. As Mellors attempts to describe Lady Chatterley’s body as a garden, he trails off into a passionate rant about industrialisation, weaponisation and war. It sounds absurd; in fact it’s meant to be entirely absurd, and yet when the wonderful Wesley Griffith finished his monologue no one in the audience was laughing. It was that moment which demonstrated not only that they had understood the essence of the original novel, but that this cast's talent extends to handling both comedic and heartfelt subject matter.
Happy Idiot have won me over with a young, fresh, and ballsy cast who aren’t afraid to take a few risks. The show won’t be for everyone; it’s incredibly crass, totally irreverent, and not the most intelligent of parodies. But if you enjoy farce, it’s a great bit of fun. I’m sure D H Lawrence would have found it an absolute riot.