A form of popular comedy with its distant roots in the improvisations which actors introduced into the text of medieval religious dramas (the word is derived from the word farce, ‘stuffing’). Later forms include the interludes performed in the 15th and 16th cents, the classical farce of Molière, and the 19th‐cent. middle‐class French farce, as practised by Eugène Labiche (1815–88), Georges Feydeau (1862–1921), and Georges Courteline (1858–1929). These works have proved popular in adaptation. In England, the full‐length home‐grown farce emerged in the 19th cent., such as Morton's Box and Cox, Pinero's The Magistrate (1885), The School‐Mistress (1886), and Dandy Dick (1887), and the farcical operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Charley's Aunt (1892) by Brandon Thomas (1856–1914), a comedy with an excellent opportunity for cross‐dressing, is still frequently performed. The term ‘farce’ is now generally used to cover a form of theatre which employs ridiculous situations, mistaken identities, split‐second timing, and marital misadventures (hence the term ‘bedroom farce’). Later exponents include Ben Travers (1886–1980), whose celebrated ‘Aldwych farces’ included A Cuckoo in the Nest and Rookery Nook, both 1926; Ray Cooney (1932– ), who wrote many plays for actor‐manager Brian Rix at the Whitehall; Ayckbourn, Frayn, Orton, and Stoppard. Dario Fo is notable among those who have used the farce for serious political purposes. Television has produced a new genre of serial and surreal farce in the Monty Python series, and in John Cleese's hotel comedy, Fawlty Towers.
Subjects: Theatre — Literature.