An interview with Laughing Mirror Theatre Company’s artistic director Chad Porter.
A “multi-rolling, slapstick comedy”, Laughing Mirror Theatre Company returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with another brand-new farce, Framed!, aimed to be a high-stakes performance of experimental comedy revolving around a stolen Mona Lisa, and two of the world’s most unlikely criminals.
In discussion with artistic director and co-writer/director of Framed! Chad Porter, we delved into the nature of his new “break-neck farce”, and why Porter finds comedic theatre such a powerful, and under-utilised force.
Framed! recounts the misadventures of “hapless criminal” Ashley Lancaster, whose goal in life is to become ‘London’s Most Wanted’. Enlisting the aid of his niece, Trigger Happy, they embark on a poorly-executed robbery of one of the world’s most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa. Porter stated that the inspiration behind Framed! came out of various locked rooms where he and his co-writer, James Darby, “rattled off ideas, puns, titles, characters, etc.—all whilst drinking a lot of Lucozade.” Focusing on a chosen theme of “poorly executed criminality”, Framed! was born in just under three weeks.
When asked why comedic theatre, more specifically “new” comedic theatre, was so important to Porter, he explained that his reasoning was twofold: firstly, his intense hatred of “old fashioned” or “traditional” comedy, which, in Porter’s opinion, takes audiences “into a space where scenarios have very few stakes, sexuality and sex are over-relied upon as a means of generating laughs, and worst of all, feminism promptly exits stage-left.” Secondly, all of LMTC’s work is authentic, devised from scratch and shaped in rehearsals. “Laughing Mirror formed from my desire to experiment with finding a universally amusing play, a house style,” Porter explained. He confided that while Framed! focuses more on pointing a mirror to humanity, LMTC’s other plays, like Good Vibes Only and White Girls, tend to “wear their political messages more obviously on their sleeves.”
The theatre company, still in its infancy having been founded just last February, finds that their strength lies in their reliance on improvisation, trust, and meta-theatre. Porter described their method of developing the work as a relationship, primarily between directors and actors, which is then transferred to actor and audience. They used diverse improvisation techniques in rehearsal to let the play find its true potential, whilst letting the heart of the performance grow through trust. “We take great pride in creating a really positive and progressive rehearsal environment,” Porter stated. This trust is then transferred from the rehearsal room to the stage through their delicate use of meta-theatre, pulling the audience further into the world of the play. This not only lets us in on the joke, but allows us to laugh at ourselves in return. “I love comedy that can turn a mirror on the audience…if you can harness comedy as a vehicle for social change, why not?”
Laughing Mirror’s inaugural Edinburgh Fringe production was their successful run of Guy Fawkes It Up, and has led them to a myriad of greater opportunities. Norwich and Brighton have seen performances of their shows, WINGMAN and White Girls, and they are even commissioned to put on the FLY Festival, “staging plays written by…talented children from across [Norwich].” But they won’t be in Norwich forever—Porter hopes to bring LMTC to London, expanding and perhaps developing Framed! into a full-length play.
With so much at stake, Framed! looks to be a theatrical rollercoaster that will leave Fringe audiences gripping the edge of their seats as they go along for the ride. A “brush with the law you won’t forget in a hurry.”
theSpace on North Bridge – Perth Theatre (Venue 36)
3-18 August (not 5 and 12)
Photo Credit: Laughing Mirror Theatre Company