January 15, 2024

Keeping a Straight Face

In "Keeping a Straight Face," Theatretrain Artistic Director Kevin Dowsett shares hilarious mishaps, in-jokes, and the art of subtle humour on stage. From detaching wine glass bottoms to unexpected shirt slogans, discover the entertaining side of live performances.

There’s a long tradition among actors called corpsing – laughing when you shouldn’t. Sometimes things go wrong in a live performance and it can lead to unintentional hilarity. I remember performing in an Agatha Christie play where I had to pick up a glass of wine, have a sip or two and later place it down. For some reason, it was one of those picnic glasses with a detachable bottom. The inevitable happened and when I took a sip, I noticed I was holding only the glass and the stem. What to do? I don’t think anyone else in the cast knew but maybe the audience did. I fretted for a while wondering what to do, until I just laid it on its side on a table. The solution is not to pretend it hasn’t happened – it has. I performed in a play where the door kept swinging open so before the next performance the stage management packed the lock with extra wood. The result was that when I tried to enter, the door wouldn’t budge. It was completely stuck and somehow, I had to get on. My solution was to enter through the French windows which got a laugh and then another when I said “You seem to have a problem with that door.”

By tradition the final matinee of a play’s run can have moments of unexpected corpsing, in-jokes, and attempts to put you off your stride might come along. The worst I heard was in a modern dress production of Julius Caesar. The actor in question was a Roman citizen who had to be so persuaded by Mark Anthony that he roared his approval. This performance was in Newcastle and the actor had a plan. He came to his roar and he ripped open his shirt to reveal on his chest the words “Shop at Binns” a popular store at the time.

He was shown the door.

I suppose it keeps you awake on stage in a long run but it all seems a bit self-indulgent. If I’ve paid my money, I don’t want to see a bunch of actors having a good time at my expense. For that reason, I think subtle humour is cleverer. It doesn’t spoil the play for the audience but it keeps the actors engaged with each other.      

Theatretrain, a nationwide provider of weekend theatre schools for young people aged 4-18, specialises in weekly classes in acting, singing, and dancing. An emphasis is placed on learning valuable life skills such as confidence, empathy, courage, and resilience. If you know a child who loves to dance, act and sing or could do with a little confidence boost why not visit to find out what our performing arts classes can offer your child at one of our 80 locations across the UK.

Related Articles

The Creatives

Step into the enchanting realm of Theatretrain, where creativity knows no limits and the stage is a playground for artistic exploration. Embark on a journey guided by the seasoned hand of Artistic Director Kevin Dowsett. Explore the vibrant tapestry of performing arts, where passion and innovation intertwine to captivate hearts and minds.
Read more >

Arriving and Departing

Theatretrain's Artistic Director, Kevin Dowsett, delves into our theme this year, reflecting on life's parallels with theatre - entrances and exits. From childhood adventures to elder contemplations, join him in embracing life's ever-changing rhythm.
Read more >

Behind the Curtain

In "Behind the Curtain," Theatretrain Artistic Director Kevin Dowsett delves into the captivating journey of Stefani, a seasoned Stage Manager with roots in Theatretrain Coventry. From West End glitz to cherished memories, discover how Stefani's Theatretrain experience shaped her into the versatile professional she is today, offering valuable insights for aspiring performers.
Read more >
Picture of Mrs Doubtfire at The Shaftsbury Theatre.

Mrs Doubtfire

In his engaging blog, Kevin Dowsett, Artistic Director of Theatretrain, recounts a charming evening at Shaftesbury Theatre watching Mrs Doubtfire. Reflecting on his history with the venue, Dowsett praises the musical's magic, and its clever character development, and shares a special connection to Theatretrain, adding depth to the delightful West End experience.
Read more >

Go Caitlin Go!

In today's blog, Kevin Dowsett, Artistic Director of Theatretrain, congratulates Caitlin, a Theatretrain Sutton student who, at 17, secured a place at Oxford University to study Biology. Dowsett highlights the crucial life skills nurtured through performing arts, detailing 60 skills in his upcoming book. Navigating a dynamic world, he underscores the significance of qualities such as collaboration, adaptability, and creative thinking, asserting that these skills transcend specific professions, shaping well-rounded individuals prepared for life's challenges.
Read more >

Taking it Too Far

In the captivating realm of stage combat, Theatretrain Artistic Director Kevin Dowsett shares insights into the art of creating realistic fights on stage. From choreographing punches to unexpected surprises, he unveils the secrets behind the illusion, emphasising the importance of safety and cautionary tales.
Read more >