The joy of corpsing: why giggling fits the theatre
The Guardian, UK October 21, 2010
by Alexis Soloski
When laughter erupted on stage in a US production starring Patrick Stewart, the audience lapped it up. Why?
We Yanks have no convenient piece of slang that approximates your lovely term "corpsing". But that doesn't mean our actors don't succumb. I saw the best – or perhaps the worst – example in recent memory the other night at David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre, a 90-minute play in 26 scenes revived for a rather snoozy Broadway run. Patrick Stewart plays the older of two thesps, TR Knight playing the younger. In scene 14, the two men must chomp away at Chinese food as they recite their lines. Some prop designer had unwisely provided Stewart with a noodle dish. As he spoke, he stuffed his mouth, but one piece of noodle went awry and seemed to smack him in the face. After a moment's pause for reflection, he slurped it up.
This proved too much for Knight. Convulsive laughter overtook him. First he dropped his head to the table, shoulders shaking, then he attempted to hide himself behind his chair. Then he put a hand in front of his face and attempted to go on with the scene. Bad idea. Stewart's next line: "There are things we can control and those things which we cannot." This set Knight off again. Even Stewart had to stifle a chuckle. Finally Stewart – amused, annoyed, not precisely in character – asked his scene-mate, "Are you all right?" Receiving something approximating a nod, they managed to finish the scene.
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