Writer: Alan Ayckbourn
Director: Grahame Radford
Reviewer: Flip Miller
The Great British Farce is normally a thing of beauty and an attempt to escape the trials and tribulations of modern day life. Bedroom Farce is set in the late 70s and this particular version should have stayed there.
All the action takes place in three different bedrooms over the space of one evening. The set isimaginatively designed with all three bedrooms on stage all of the time. The story follows four couples at varying stages of their relationships. There is Ernest and Delia, played by John Lintin and Carolyn Child, who are celebrating their wedding anniversary and have the most stable of all the partnerships. By contrast, their son Trevor – played by Tom Ogden – is married to the somewhat flaky Susannah, expertly played by Claire Lowe
Child did have some good one-liners, delivered with devilish grin – “My Mother said if S E X raises its ugly head, close your eyes before you see any more of it”. Be careful what you wish for, though. In the programme she says: “I’m just hoping I can remember the bloomin’ words” and yes the prompter was needed in this performance.
Nick and Susannah descend on each household at various stages of the evening. At first they attend Malcolm and Kate’s for their house warming. However, their fragile relationship begins to break apart and the usual ensuing confusion so typical of British farce means they go their separate ways and inveigle themselves in other people’s bedrooms. Susannah in a bizarre quirk of the plot goes to Ernest and Delia’s – her father and mother in law. Trevor goes to Nick and Jan’s to speak to Malcolm, who is stuck in bed with the most flexible bad back ever seen on stage.
Malcolm and Kate are supposed to be the bright young things who are supposedly madly in love. Gareth Isaacson and Lucy Alfred play their parts with precision but lacked passion. Isaacson’s timing just didn’t hit the mark.
Catherine Dale and Steve Whitaker, playing Jan and Nick, are probably the most believable couple. Their relationship on the face of it should be shaky, her previous affair with Trevor being the elephant in the room but they have a rock solid partnership. Whitaker, as the bedridden Nick, is particularly funny. Anyone who has ever suffered from sciatica will identify with his pain and the dilemma when you just can’t quite reach that book. There was a united wince from the audience as he fell off the bed. You really did feel the character’s pain.
There were a few technical issues, for example, the telephones don’t ring when they should, lights going on too soon or too late, etc, but these are probably just first night glitches that will be ironed out for the next performances.
This is supposed to be a fast-moving, and hilarious comedy. This play was sluggish to get going and really didn’t take off. There are echos of Ayckbourn’s brilliance in the performance but the cast need to work on their comic timing to make this creditable.