The University of Sheffield Light Entertainment Society’s (USLES) original comedy The Dreaded Henderson Hurler follows the ludicrous adventures of Johnny Seagrave (Tomos Wilshaw) and Samantha Sung (Sabrina Lam) as they hunt down Sheffield’s resident assailant.
Paying homage to Sheffield’s prominence as the birthplace of Henderson’s Relish, the villain is an assailant who attacks his victims by hurling a bottle of Henderson’s relish at them. Jack Relish’s (Dylan Hemmings) identity is double — by day he is the owner of the Henderson’s Relish business and by night the Henderson Hurler. His skittish and jumpy demeanour makes him the perfect anti-hero and the centre of ridicule throughout the storyline.
Playwright Joshua Cooper truly masters the fine art of comedy with his ostentatious characterisation of Johnny Seagrave, whose frequent punning and theatrical mannerisms provide an abundance of laughs.
The play frequently utilises aspects of metadrama involving moments where the narrator disrupts onstage interactions. This mechanism forces a boundary between audience and character and allows for a momentary pause in which the audience is able to laugh at the characters’ wacky antics.
At times, the show feels like a Shakespearean comedy because of its utilisation of chaos and farcical moments as a mechanism for facilitating plot. The various non-diegetic sounds of zaps, twangs and boinks enhance the comedy’s farcical elements where meaning and identities are misconstrued. The elementary aestheticism of the set design means that its simplicity doesn’t overpower the script’s humour and punchlines.
In concession to Shakespearean comedy, a final denouement is reached with the defeat of the villain Moriarty (Sabrina Celia Senior). Thus, Cooper’s The Dreaded Henderson Hurler showcases not only his witticism but also sound knowledge of the technical conventions of comedy.
Featured Image Credit: Megan Roberts