Mark Leung and Elizabeth Hood, part of the Hooray for Hollywood team.
Mark Leung and Elizabeth Hood, part of the Hooray for Hollywood team. CONTRIBUTED

Corpsing on stage can be dead funny

AT AN Indee play-reading this week, the subject of corpsing came up.

You don't hear much about it in little theatre, simply because it's more a pro-theatre thing.

Corpsing is when an actor does something on stage designed to make another actor go into paroxysms of mirth.

David Walliams, one half of the Little Britain team, tells of the first scene on the opening night of a touring drama.

His leading lady squirmed and winced noticeably all the way through it.

When they got off stage, he asked incredulously: "What on Earth were you doing?”

She replied: "I've decided to play the role as though I'm an actress who's just returned to the cast, after recovering from a serious motor accident.”

It took him years to stop laughing.

Dame Judith Dench is a past master at corpsing.

She once appeared in a West End drama in which she had quite a lengthy break during the first act.

One night, she used the time to rush out and through the stage door of the next-door theatre (which was presenting Oklahoma), don a frilly apron and nip on stage at the end of the chorus-line.

The lead, singing with great gusto, caught sight of her and, eyes spinning, became a giggling mess.

In the confusion, Dame Judith rushed back to her own theatre and, with minutes to spare, was waiting in the wings to continue her dramatic role.

Of course, in amateur theatre, there's inadvertent corpsing.

I recall watching a Noosa Arts production of Blythe Spirit.

A maid carrying a tray was delivering some lines when her mob-cap and wig descended, ever so slowly, over the front of her face, muffling the last few words.

It convulsed the cast and brought the house down.

By the by, Hooray For Hollywood is next at The Indee, Yandina, on Sunday, March 12.

Call 5472 8200 or visit www.indeetheatre.com for tickets.