Review: Gurnwah Productions’ The Man Whos Hair Grew Black, Cardiff & Vale College

An unexpected trip out on Friday evening found me in the small but friendly theatre location of the Cardiff & Vale College’s Michael Sheen Theatre, for the first of a two-night run of Gurnwah productions comedy presentation, The Man Whos Hair Grew Black.

From the pen of Anthony Bunko, The Man Whos Hair Grew Black is a story within a story (of sorts!). A motley crew of actors assemble in an undisclosed studio to perform a classic radio script. Even before the “On air” light flashes on, anarchy and mayhem kicks off amongst the cast and a rather disorganised sound effects technician overseen by announcer and producer Neil “Captain Mainwaring” Downes.

The actors take their places as the broadcast for The Man Whos Hair Grew Black gets underway, a curious tale of a Welsh community that would make the residents of Dylan Thomas’ Milk Wood seem normal. At the centre of the story is Clive the Postman, an ordinary man who lives an ordinary life until overnight, his hair grows black! As the postman’s new appearance sends shockwaves across the small village, questions are asked from the local pub to the Vatican City and the madness doesn’t end there!

Anarchic, riotous and lots of fun, The Man Whos Hair Grew Black recalls the madcap roots of British Comedy. Visually aided by a few comedy wigs and props, its down to the actors to put all their performance into their voices as the humour of The Goons, Monty Python and The Young Ones lovingly rub shoulders with Welsh cultural references to Dylan Thomas and Arthur Llewellyn Jenkins among many others.

The Man Whos Hair Grew Black also features a talented team of performers who keep the laughs constant and uplifting for over two hours!

Christopher Pegler Lambert is a wonderfully Goonish homage to Harry Secombe as he dons a wild black wig and takes to the microphone as Clive the Postman.  Julian Richards quickly becomes the bane of radio producer, Neil Maidman’s life by picking holes in the script and questioning PC terminology.

Steve Sims and Cameron Jones provide a solid support in Spanish musicians, stuttering dodgy dealers and beer swilling harmonica players while Helen Davies and Melanie Howells present charisma and diversity in strong female comedy roles from Welsh matriarchs to chopsy barmaids.

From the side-lines, James Morgan’s red-nosed sound technician, misses his cues and attempts to compensate for his lack of sound effect resources with a collection of items from a local charity shop while verbally bleeping swear words after they have been spoken.

The icing on the cake for this production are the wonderful vocal talents and characterisations of Rob Murphy, an actor who has a knack of switching personas at a spectacular rate. Recalling the versatility of Peter Sellers and Ronnie Barker, Murphy slips into a variety of original but believable comedy characterisations including the eccentric but wonderfully observant Welshman Ken, a God-fearing Catholic Minister, a refuse collector and a cleaver wielding butcher.

A riotous treat for anyone who has loved the slightly edgier elements of comedy from The Goon Show to Father Ted, The Man Whos Hair Grew Black continues its Welsh tour in the coming weeks with performances at Cwmaman Arts Centre, Aberdare (November 23rd), Dylan Thomas Theatre, Swansea (December 13-14) and The Penydarren Club, Merthyr Tydfil (December 19-20). There will also be a performance at London’s Leicester Square Theatre on February 1, 2020 – so, no excuses to indulge in plenty of laughter – don’t miss it!

The show has an age rating of over 16s.