Tuesday, 16 April 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Prince Of Denmark - Flaps & Light Ale (17 April 1974)

 It is quite extraordinary how appalling a man the Ronnie Corbett character is in this, and how little in the way of redeeming qualities he is given. Peevish, squirming and not keen for others to take the credit, it’s the type of role that Ricky Gervais would create a generation later.

 This viewer's sympathies where wholly with his wife, a very underwritten character in an attractive scarlet dress with a flat white collar, despite her not being called upon to do much other than discourage Ronnie from getting into scrapes and clear up his confusions with other people in the publican trade. A lot of what the viewer gets from the wife - appreciating her constant balance between matrimonial loyalty and running a tight ship - is much more the creation of Rosemary Leach, realised through responses, looks and vocal tone than the script itself.

 Thinking about the joint authorship of Graham Chapman and Barry Cryer causes me to speculate as to which bits come from which writer. There are a two sections in particular which one can imagine in Monty Python, and feel more like Chapman. There's a running joke with a customer preoccupied with a cryptic crossword, whose clues Ronnie takes literally, culminating in a cross-purposes dialogue in which Ronnie misinterprets the man's reading aloud of clues as a confession to the barman of his wife's promiscuity (spectacular and with multiple partners). The other moment is when Ronnie's failure to operate an electricity fuse box causes a bombardment of every sound and lighting device to go off simultaneously, soundtracked by the first bars of Status Quo's 'Caroline' from the jukebox repeating again and again.

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