The Painkiller is farce based on the French play Le Contrat by Francis Veber, adapted by Sean Foley. The setting is two adjoining hotel rooms. In one, Dudley (Rob Brydon) wants to commit suicide because his wife has left him. Next door, in the room overlooking the court, is Ralph (Kenneth Branagh), a hitman hired to shoot a key witness in the trial that is taking place.
Despite the initial dark tones of murder and suicide, the play slowly descended into the usual chaos you expect and desire from a farce, with lots of slamming doors and hiding in wardrobes. It was a lot of fun to watch, extremely well performed and designed but it wasn’t one of the best farces I’ve seen. Brydon’s character was as his characters always are – a naïve helpless Welshman, but he does this very well! Branagh is still a very good mover and threw himself into the physical side of the comedy. There were also some great supporting performances by Mark Hadfield as the Porter and Claudie Blakley as Michelle, the ex-wife. She actually had the best one liners, and it’s a shame there weren’t more of them.
Overall it was an enjoyable and fun play and performance and I enjoyed seeing Kenneth Branagh onstage for the first time, but if it wasn’t for the two leads I don’t feel it would be as memorable.