It's always a good idea to place a big box in the middle of a stage and have the characters speculate about what might be inside it. In Mr Kolpert (at The Kings Head until 5 August) inevitably, and very quickly indeed, conversation turns to a dead body - that of the eponymous Mr K - and we're off on a madcap hour of farce, fights and flung food as the box, and the characters, reveal their secrets.
Ralf (Edward Fulton) and Sarah (Kate Sawyer) are bored with conventionally successful suburban lives, so invite Sarah's co-worker Edith (Laura Freeman) and her husband Bastian (Damian Lynch) round for, well, takeaways delivered by a stock Pizza Boy (David Eaton). For thirty minutes or so, the jokes are conventional with just Bastian's fast-twitch offence-taking muscle and Sarah's flashing eyes whenever a hint of violence surfaces, to foretell of what's to come. And, as chaos, carnage and crushed tiramisu arrive, things get several notches darker on the comedy pantone palette.
Damian Lynch has great fun as the architect with a temper that goes to eleven and Kate Sawyer, having been ever so slightly Beverley-from-Abigail's-Party, grows into a splendid psycho. Best of a fine set of performances is Laura Freeman as the dippy Edith, whose grip on reality - so secure initally - becomes the most unhinged.
If the ending is just a bit of a cop-out, everything that comes before the final scene is funny, distressing and just possible enough to locate this production in the er... dead centre of the black comedy genre. And, on leaving the theatre and eyeing the photos of immaculate two- bedroomed Islington apartments on sale for ridiculous prices, one can't help wondering if the people who will live in them share the same ennui as these two couples and, consequently might be tempted by similar releases. Perhaps the popularity of the Saw and Hostel film franchises since Mr Kolpert was first performed in 2000, suggests that David Gieselmann's farce carries a deeper message too.