I like comedy. I like it a lot. I like musicals too. Musical comedies, I absolutely love, therefore, so much so that this is the second one I have seen this year based on the well-known hospital-where-the-male-love-interest-is-in-a-coma-for-most-of-the-show formula (see Shock Treatment). But the people around me wouldn’t have known of my love from my stony face tonight. There’s a simple reason. It’s because Vampire Hospital Waiting Room is not funny, and it’s not musical.
Oh, the audience loved it. The audience absolutely LOVED it. But there was something about the way they loved it that made me think they were almost all friends of the cast or the production team. I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were actually laughing at something hilarious that had happened in this bit during rehearsal, rather than what was actually meant to be funny. Or there was an in-joke that was never going to be vouchsafed to a general audience.
Here’s the plot: six stereotypes go into a hospital (one of them is actually called ‘Sexy Nurse’, doubtless hilarious for some meta-reason that sounded good in the College bar after lectures) where the Eddie Izzard/Matt Berry-clone doctor for no good reason is obsessed with becoming a vampire. Cue man in a coma, whom he is convinced is a vampire lord, who can help him achieve this. What happens is supremely irrelevant, because it’s just an excuse for lots of ‘aren’t we clever’ jokes that would struggle to make the slot on Radio 4 at 6:30, and which you switch off after ten minutes anyway. Here’s an example: ‘Neil Buchanan died of an Art Attack’. There follows an exchange based on how funny this is, and the question of whether he is actually dead. It is possible that this is based on the fact that there was a facebook hoax in 2007 that Buchanan was in fact dead, but that doesn’t obviously make it any funnier. Here’s the best joke: ‘My husband [in the coma] is rich’. ‘How rich?’ ‘Have you heard of Australia?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Doesn’t exist. He invented it as a means of selling beer and boomerangs.’ I tittered at that. But I was getting desperate. Actually, what was genuinely funny came a bit later where the priest who ‘specialises in weddings’ was persuaded to preside over a funeral instead and said ‘if anyone here knows of any reason why this man should not be put in the ground’ and so on. But it was short-lived.
As for the music, was there any? Sure there was a piano. There was a guitar. There was certainly singing, very briefly in harmony. But melody? Rhythm? Variation of tone? Something to add emotional depth? No, it was just to hang the words on and say it was a musical. Probably someone’s mate played the piano and needed something to do. B-musical? I wish it would (and that, my friends, is the level of comedy we’re at.)
Is this a bit harsh? Shouldn’t exciting and original new musicals be encouraged? Yes, they should. Instead of this drivel.