Pulling off a farce is all about timing.
For Ali Watson, the lead in Persephone Theatre’s upcoming production of The Fiancée, that means the cast needs to be a “well-oiled machine” — one that can bring the laughs, but a machine nonetheless.
“Once all the pieces are put together, hilarity can ensue,” Watson said. “It’s like a recipe. If something is a little bit off in your measurements, the joke isn’t going to land properly … there’s all these different parts that make it work.
The Fiancée is a farce comedy that follows Lucy (Watson), a well-meaning girl who promised her hand in marriage to three different men heading off to the Second World War so they would have something to come home to. Coupled with her struggle to tell people “no,” and Lucy suddenly finds herself dealing with all three men returning home to their supposed fiancée on the same day — and Lucy is left struggling to make things right and keep her men apart.
Watson said the show isn’t very “deep” — but it is terribly funny.
“It’s one of those stories where you can turn your brain off and laugh for two hours,” she said.
Many older farces tend to feature men leading the way, dealing with a bevy of women in ridiculous and slapstick situations.
Some also rely on old tropes and no small amount of misogyny, so Watson said she was excited to be part of a female-led comedy that flips the classic farce script.
Instead of focusing on a man being hounded by vapid women, The Fiancée sees Lucy and her sister Rose (Jameela McNeil) attempt to deal with a horde of silly (if well-meaning) men played by Mackenzie Dawson, Cameron Grant, and Kenn McLeod.
Watson said it was not only a treat to have two women — herself and McNeil — leading the show, but also to have two women of colour taking centre stage.
“People of colour have been excluded in the farce world … it’s exciting for me because this play isn’t about race,” Watson said. “It’s nice to have a fun, silly story that just happens to be led by two Black women.”
Watson joked that she couldn’t share too many of her favourite moments in the show without spoiling any twists, but noted that she gets “very messy” during the second act.
The show is so fast-paced, she noted, that she would find herself out of breath during scenes — and it’s not always acting.
“It feels like I’ve done a marathon every time I finish a run,” Watson said with a laugh.
As December brings colder weather, Watson said she hoped The Fiancée could be fun, silly, and warming for everyone in the audience.
“You don’t need to leave with much introspection — you just need to laugh at how much chaos two people can go through in two hours,” she said.
The Fiancée runs at Persephone Theatre from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18. More information can be found online at at persephonetheatre.org.