facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11


First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 21 April 2008

If you have ever pondered the question ‘when is a snake too short?’ or ‘how many eggs does a cod produce?’ then N F Simpson is your man. These, and other similarly important questions, crop up in A Resounding Tinkle, the first of two Simpson plays which feature in this triple-bill of absurdist comedy. Michael Frayn’s new one-act play The Crimson Hotel rounds off the evening, with Simpson’s Gladly Otherwise the filling in the sandwich that is Absurdia. Caroline Bishop went to the Donmar Warehouse for the first night.

There is an oddly dark, sinister feel to this evening of the absurd, from the moment the mysterious men in bowler hats arrange props on the stage, crunching through the gravel, to the creepy creaking of the set’s backdrop as it peels down in layers between each play, through the radio play that mirrors the characters’ conversation in A Resounding Tinkle and the unseen figures heard moving in the dark in The Crimson Hotel. It is almost like a dream, in which reality is skewed and yet, bizarrely, makes perfect sense.

Simpson’s two plays A Resounding Tinkle and Gladly Otherwise are nonsensical to the extreme, but somehow so firmly rooted in the ordinary that the situation seems perfectly reasonable. In the first, Middie and Bro Paradock are a 1950s middle aged suburban couple who have just had their elephant delivered, in part exchange for last year’s giraffe, only the elephant is – heavens! – too big. In Gladly Otherwise a man (a doorknob salesman? A surveyor? A relative?: “he didn’t say”) questions the perturbed Mrs Brandywine over the building of her house. Why does she need a floor? What is wallpaper doing on the walls? In these two plays what is normal is turned on its head – wastepaper bins and tea cosies make perfect hats and a religious service gives thanks for bats. Why not indeed?

The tone changes with the third play, Frayn’s The Crimson Hotel, a surreal mix of French farce and mime. A playwright and his leading lady rehearse how they can consummate their affair without her husband finding out. Expertly timed sound effects and voices in the dark take this odd tale from the slapstick to the surreal, culminating in a particularly absurd ending.

Director Douglas Hodge (Hodge, we find out in A Resounding Tinkle, is a good name for a monkey) has created a cohesive production – despite the differences in style between Simpson and Frayn – with the plays drawn together by the clever device of Vicki Mortimer’s layered backdrop and the bowler-hatted stage hands. The cast of four – Judith Scott, Peter Capaldi, Lyndsey Marshal and John Hodgkinson – slip swiftly from role to role, convincing us of the normality of the absurd in these strangely endearing characters. After all, if you did own a pet elephant, you wouldn’t want it so big it couldn’t fit in the garden, would you?



Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.