ComedyReviewSouth West

Mind Your Farce! – Cygnet Theatre, Exeter, Devon

Writer: Georges Feydeau
Directors: Alistair Ganley and Stephen Copp
Reviewer: Gareth Roberts

 

The Cygnet Theatre Company’s Mind Your Farce is a set of three different short comedies, each the work of the French playwright Georges Feydeau. In the first, Through the Window, a lawyer left alone for the day is visited by a woman who demands he makes love to her. In Rest in Peace, a man wakes his sleeping wife returning home from a party, which proves just the start of his trouble; whileShe’s a Woman of the World sees two adulterous liaisons at a restaurant dissolve into anarchy.

The first of the trio is the weakest by a margin. The plot is not much more than mildly amusing and many of the misunderstandings involved feel contrived. The direction is also considerably poorer than any of the other pieces, and the two performers often feel unnecessarily close together, with little room to play off each other and exploit the space of the stage. Indeed, much of this may be because of the poor set design, which crowds the back of the stage too much and forces the actors to the limited area at the front of the stage

Fortunately, the other two pieces are both solidly directed and well-performed. Rest in Peace is a particular delight, with the cast giving expertly restrained performances that never cross the line into buffoonery and ground the silliness in reality. Marissa Rowell is particularly entertaining as a put-upon servant, managing to invest what could well have been a one-dimensional comedy character with a real sense of humanity. Furthermore, the problems with the set design are not present here, and the cast has a lot of space to work with. Indeed, the direction fully exploits this, using both the depth and width of the stage to full effect.

Similarly, the third is also a drastic improvement on the first, with the multiple exits used to full effect to allow the characters to enter and exit rapidly and keep the comedy flowing. Scott Simpson and Emily Partridge as Albert and Philomela, the married restaurant couple, particularly help with this effectively bridging the gap between the set-pieces as well as acting out their own storyline. Simpson gives the impression of an eccentric, amused by the chaos around him, while Partridge seems brittle.

Crucially, though, the endings are often unsatisfying. For all of the sophistication and complexity of Rest in Peace, it fizzles out in a shouting match. Similarly, the ending of She’s a Woman of the World feels abrupt and inorganic. The result is a show that feels less than the sum of its parts.

Despite impressive performances and strong design and direction, the material is sometimes too weak to give the performers much to work with.

Runs until 19 March (not 12, 13, 14) 2016 | Image: Contributed

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