About Ben Elton's Gasping
Ben Elton's debut play - originally seen at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket,
London, starring Hugh Laurie (House, MD) and Bernard Hill (Titanic)
- is a brilliantly funny satire on big business, the media, and product
Lockheart Industries are making serious money, but Sir Chiffley
Lockheart is looking for the buzz given by a new way to make
money where no money existed before. Philip, his pushy workaholic
executive, suggests selling "designer air" - Perrier for the nostrils -
as a privatised alternative to polluted urban fug.
phenomenon of the decade has arrived and millions are quickly
made! However, producing the designer air has unintended consequences,
needing the kind of corporate maneuvers that would make
the CEO of Enron proud. The world divides into the "haves" and
the "have nots": The world starts Gasping, and only
the biggest suckers survive...
About Ben Elton
The work of Ben Elton is far more popular than is generally
realised, certainly your Webmaster wasn't aware of just how
substantial his output really is.
Elton started out as an "alternative" stand-up comedian, and
frankly, "alternative" at the time to most people meant "not
funny". As he grew up he became much more "mainstream", to the
point where many of his original supporters declared that Elton
had sold out.
The Alternative crowd's loss is very much everyone else gain.
Elton dropped the stand-up and became an author, initially for TV,
though much of his earlier work never made it as far as New
Zealand. However these early shows forged links with actors that
would appear again and again in Elton's work, perhaps the most
notable being Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, who we now all know on
the telly as Dr Gregory House.
The first popular product of Elton's pen was the "Blackadder"
series, co-written with Richard Curtis, which featured the
globally recognised character of Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean.
He (Ben Elton, not Mr Bean) is also a successful novelist,
with a dozen books under his belt.
But it is Elton as the playwright that we are perhaps most
interested in. "Gasping" was his first work for stage, which
starred (surprise, surprise) Hugh Laurie, and also Bernard Hill,
best known as Captain Smith in "Titanic". Gasping was followed by
"Silly Cow", written for and starring Dawn French. "Popcorn" and
"Blast from the Past" followed, both dramatisations of his
If all this were not enough, he also adapted his novel
"Inconceivable" to become the film "Maybe Baby" , directed by
Elton and starring (you guess it) Hugh Laurie. This movie is a
smashing romantic comedy about a couple with fertility (and
other!) problems. Not to mention co-writing the musical "The
Beautiful Game" with Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the globally popular
Queen musical "We Will Rock You". One could accuse Elton of
starting the "has been music stars" genre, best known, of course,
for Mama Mia, but not content with writing the first, he went on
to do it again with the works of Rod Stewart...
Reviews of the London Haymarket Production
"A sharp-witted satire on the heartlessness of market forces...
extremely funny. . . [it] never, unlike the world's population, runs out
of puff. . . " (Independent)
"A poisonously funny morality play. . . a remarkable debut."