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The National Joke

The National Joke was first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (Round) on 8th June 2016, with the following cast:
LIVVIE, Cate Hamer
RUPERT,  Philip Bretherton
MARY,  Annabel Leventon
CHARLIE,  Catherine Lamb
DAN,  Guy Burgess
Director,  Henry Bell
Designer,  Lucy Weller
DSM,  Hazel McDougall
Lighting Designer,  Jason Taylor
Sound Designer,  Matthew Twaites
Casting Director,  Sarah Hughes


Henry Bell (director) and Torben Betts (writer), 11 June 2016

Torben Betts’ new play is firmly in a glorious Scarborough tradition... The National Joke is mid-period Ayckbourn, brilliantly transformed for the 21st Century, not just in technical developments (the Twitterati have an important plot function), but in social attitudes, political concerns and the underlying sense of personal isolation...a very funny, very bleak play.

Among Britain's consistent writers of black comedies with bags of social observation, cultural scepticism, Leftist political pep and invariably unhappy endings...His plays are bloody funny...a delight to have Betts back on the East Coast for the world premiere of his state-of-the-nation political and family drama...heading for the venerated top table of Ibsen and Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Ayckbourn himself...Betts's bitter home truths are universal, as dark as the central motif of a solar eclipse in Henry Bell's sharply directed, superbly acted production.

A classic play by Torben Betts... The action in the family garden soon becomes as explosive as the skies. Funny, satirical and truly brilliant.

Bold new state-of-the nation comedy that mixes the dark with the light. Immaculately acted.

Politics of despair amid a Tory Twitter storm... this neatly acted production finds Torben Betts once more smuggling left-leaning, state-of-the-nation analysis into his comedy... His latest play confirms that he could indeed be the lovechild of both Alan Ayckbourn and David Hare.

A beautifully acted family drama.

Torben Betts’s latest play has a twitchy energy: it’s concerned with the politics of short-termism and knee-jerk reactions... atmospherically odd, and deliberately so... Betts has woven a dense web of individual motivations, desires and backstories supported ably by excellent performances all round... powerfully delivered set-pieces... finely crafted.


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