Shaun Williamson as George Pigden and Susie Amy as Jane Worthington with he fateful window and useful cupboard
Out of Order
The New Alexandra Theatre
It’s 27 years since Ray Cooney’s classic farce first burst on our stage and, thanks to our politicians, it is still as fresh now as the day it was launched.
After all our political masters still have a propensity for philandering as well as an aversion to anything that might be held against them . . . such as the truth for instance.
Thus we have junior Tory minister Richard Willey booking in to a suite at the Westminster Hotel having told his wife he will be involved in an all-night sitting in the nearby House of Commons.
As a statement it is partly correct, after all he is expecting it to be all night, but as it is with one of Jeremy Corbyn’s secretaries he is hoping not much sitting will enter into it and it will be back bedroom rather than back benches where he is expecting the main interest to lie.
But when it comes to dampening one’s ardour, discovering a dead body in the room, and part out of it as well as it so happens, does tend to do the trick.
Andrew Hall is billed a Willey but was indisposed on Press night which brought Jeffrey Harmer to the fore in a favourite role he played at Vienna’s English Theatre a few years ago and Harmer did not let anyone down with a wonderfully slick and well timed performance as the tricky-dickey, slippery minister.
Susie Amy (Footballers’ wives) provided his lust, sorry, love interest, as Jane Worthington, adding the traditional hallmark of farce by stripping down to her underwear – which perked up approximately 50 per cent of the audience no end – remaining like that for much of the performance after her dress sadly vanished along with oysters and champagne - don't ask . . . A lovely performance on all counts.
So with a randy minister, an errant secretary in bra and pants, a corpse and a politician’s first thoughts being for self-preservation, Willey’s Parliamentary Private Secretary George Pigden, played by Shaun Williamson (One man, two guvnors – EastEnders), is dragged in up to his neck and beyond to help rescue his boss, shifty Willey, who gives a different explanation, building an even larger tissue of lies, to each of the motley host of characters who appear, usually at the most inopportune moments.
James Holmes who gives a wonderful performance as the opportunist waiter Harold
There is Arthur Bostrom (‘Allo ‘Allo), superb as the humourless hotel manager, remaining calm(ish) as his sixth floor suites descend into chaos with suite 648 appearing to be some sort of sex den while 650 has been wrecked by a honeymoon couple.
Then Sue Holderness (Only Fools and Horses) turns up as Pamela Willey to surprise her husband – which will hardly be difficult in the circumstances – before Elizabeth Elvin (EastEnders, Doctors) arrives as Nurse Gladys Forster, who looks after George’s mother. She has arrived because mother is worried about George having married that morning without telling her. Not that he did, except in the alternate universe Willey is rapidly constructing to bury the truth deeper and deeper beneath more and more extravagant explanations.
The wife and the nurse both discover they have the hots for George which complicates things a little, particularly as Jane’s husband Ronnie, a man with a temper and well-honed physique, played by Jules Brown, is rampaging around the hotel having been told his wife is having an affair with George. No prizes for guessing who told him that.
And hovering around it all we have James Holmes in a wonderful performance as the waiter Harold who will do anything for you for a modest token of appreciation, modest being relative of course, with notes preferred.
And let us not forget the cause of all this mayhem, the body, played by David Warwick (Dr Who, EastEnders) who played the body in its tryout in 1990 then in the transfer to the West End and in its subsequent tour.
The play is directed by Cooney who has updated his script so that we have references to Brexit as well as Theresa May as Prime Minister, which gives the whole thing an added freshness. And it is a very clever script with some gloriously funny lines all helped by a hotel suite set from Rebecca Brower which is built for farce.
We have a bedroom door, large cupboard – useful for storing bodies and surplus women – a large sash window which can also serve as a door with connecting balconies and of course the room door and with four entrance and exit points all used at a breakneck pace, the cast show some brilliant exquisite timing. A mention too for the technicians operating the errant window, a star in its own right, which also demanded and received, spot on timing.
The first act is perhaps a little more sedate as the scene is set but after the interval confusion is built on confusion at an ever increasing pace. With a superb cast, excellent timing and a funny script, delivered to perfection, you are guaranteed a gloriously funny evening full of laughs from beginning to end. Marvellous entertainment. To 15-04-17