Playwriting

The Farce

“The word itself derives from the French for “stuffing” and refers to the medieval custom of either “stuffing” a programme with several short pieces or the liturgy with comic scenes.” Michael Arditti, An Anatomy of Farce, The Times, 1992

I’ve never been successful at writing farce. I get too caught up in the characters and I ask too many questions. I have an unfinished farce, languishing in a drawer. It takes place in the staff hallway of a hotel – the entire set is a wall of doors. I loved the notion, but never could make it work to my satisfaction. Every time I tried to weave plot elements together to make a jenga out of the story, the whole thing just ground to a halt.

Farce, more than comedy, is akin to tragedy. Ray Cooney

It’s a mistake to think that farces are easy to right. That all you have to do is have a bunch of characters slam in and out of doors in their underwear and comedy ensues. It just seems like that’s the only thing going on. The best farces are effortless in their chaos. One event triggering another in an never ending tidal wave toward the end of the play. The best farces also have well fortified sets. Craig acted in a farce once that did not have well-fortified sets. Every time someone slammed a door entire walls would sway back and forth. And I think the doors got stuck all the time.

 “You forget your door key, so you climb over the gate. Climbing over the gate causes you to split your trousers. Because you’ve split your trousers you take cover in the bushes. Because you’re hiding in the bushes, a passing policeman demands that you give an account of yourself, and so forth.” Michael Frayn, 

I have a lot of respect for the farce writers and I’m always in awe of those who can make their writing look effortless. It’s a genre I definitely need to revisit to and break through my insecurities. Have you ever written a farce? What do you think makes a farce successful? I did a little looking and also came across some writing about farce from those who know it well such as Ray Cooney and Michael Frayn. Enjoy!

About the author

Lindsay Price