is a short coarse-acting play
which must be put on absolutely perfectly, contrary to what a viewer may think.
The play's programs will say it is a story of a family in a mining village in Yorkshire, England, at the end of the 19th century. The family bonds are turning to dust as the boy, accepted at a university with a scholarship, is told that there is no way he can do anything other than work down the mines for the rest of his life. The daughter is told which boys she can and cannot speak to. Life is harsh.
The play itself actually abides by that plot, but it seems to be filled to the top with minor mistakes such as people's lines being drowned out by thunder sound-effects and the play starting with props in the wrong positons. One actor enters the stage, soaked to the bone from the rain, and unbuckles his coat to reveal to the audience that he has forgotten to put on his trousers. He quickly closes his coat, with a flabbergasted expression, and stutters a line about not wanting to take his coat off because he ...er..likes it.
About 5 minutes into the play, the mother of the family announces that it is supper-time, and all the members of the family crowd around the table. But as the father of the family pulls out his chair, he knocks off a table leg.
It's intentional of course, but the audience really don't catch on (as the actors show proper surprise on their face) and laugh their fool heads off.
The play continues, twice as un-smooth as before, because now the actors are aware that the father is holding up one end of the table. Then, fate strikes again: someone bangs the table and the other legs come off too. Now all actors are holding up the table, unable to carry on with the play as they know perfectly well if one lets go, the table and feast fall.
Other characters come in, and are inconsiderate as to what the others are doing. They do not improvise, it seems. It seems they do what they normally would do: sit on the table (followed by a groan as the table sinks into the other actors' laps) and say lines which require table-supporting actors to jump up in anger, turn their head and shout over their shoulder (so as not to let go). This causes an imbalance, causing food to roll all over the stage, water to fly to the floor. The crowd are bursting their sides.
After those events, there's a pause, as the actors wonder what to do and the audience thank God that it is not them up on the stage. Suddenly, one actor gets a bright idea: "Maybe they need some food and drink at the pit!"
The cast stare at the actor. "Nooooooooooo," they say, making it clear that they have never heard that line before (they hear it every night!).
"Maybe,"says the first actor, shaking the table really obviously, "they need some food and drink at the pit!" The actor nods offstage.
"OOOOOOHHHH!" say the cast. "Yeah, let's!" "What are we waiting for!" "Let's go!" they say. (They have a little trouble, it doesn't fit on one side, they try the other. It doesn't work, so they turn it sideways, tipping over all the remaining food while they're at it.)
A different character comes on. He looks around and sees he's alone. The audience are still in hysterics. The actor wonders what t do, and finally he says his lines anyway, to the father, who is not there.
"How are you, Mr. Crumby?"
"That's good to hear, Mr. Crumby. So, do you think they need a new policeman by the pit?" Pause. "Well I-" The actor looks around. He gives up, and leaves. Curtain goes down.
Weeks after, viewers still appraoch the director and say: "Wait, the table thing was meant to happen, right?"