out of order

PPS George Pigden (Shaun Williamson), with Jane Worthington (Susie Amy)

Out of Order

Malvern Theatres


To be or not to be . . . a corpse! That is the question, the problem, the embarrassment!

When Richard Willey, MP and Junior Tory Minister, (Jeff Harmer),  thinks he can indulge in a night of passion with Jane, (Susie Amy), the leggy secretary of the leader of the Opposition, his carefully laid schemes fall apart because of the body trapped in the sash window! So begins ‘Out of Order’!

Ray Cooney, 85 at the end of the month, is celebrating 70 highly successful years in the theatre and to mark the anniversary he has updated and directed this longstanding favourite among his farces.

Willey calls upon his Parliamentary Private Secretary George Pigden (Shaun Williamson) to help him solve his problem with the body lying across his hotel bedroom sash window, but the interventions of the hotel manager and the incompetent but tip-chasing room service waiter contribute to things going from bad to worse. Add to the mix Ronni, (Jules Brown), the angry husband of the leggy secretary, and in the second act the wife of Willey himself (Sue Holderness), Nurse Gladys Foster (Elizabeth Elvin), the nurse who cares for Pigden’s mother, and the chaos becomes terminal.

Farce of this kind requires a fast pace, impeccable timing, with short and energetic scenes in which earnest and panicking characters invent wild short term solutions to situational crises. Cooney has structured this piece most cleverly to produce ever more incredible and absurd scenarios. The hilarity takes a little time to gather momentum, but by the time we reach the interval the energy is well established.

Farce depends on slick teamwork more than outstanding individual stars, so it seems almost inappropriate to identify particular performers for special praise. The tallness of Arthur Bostrom as Manager beside the short and inane waiter played by James Holmes, the stolid George with his fascinating facial contortions, the timing of the sash windows activities which become like the extra performer on stage - all these elements work together for strong comic impact.

In fact, the window gets a moment in the curtain call all to itself!

The exploitation for comic effect of set and props is another standard element in such plays. The swinging cupboard door concealing bodies dead and alive, couples in compromising places, the use of wheelchair, the beautiful secretary in her lingerie, the dropping of the bath towel to reveal a shapely bottom, the waiter’s trolley, all have their moments as well.

This is a frivolous, entertaining, absurd and light-hearted evening of escapism and amoral hilarity that is skilfully executed by a well-coordinated team. It has been updated to make allusions to the current political characters and scenarios, with references to Facebook and the like. Take it all with a pinch of something – it will give you a couple of hours of belly laughs! To 13-05-17

Tim Crow


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