Wedded bliss brings out the laughs

Marriage Mayhem: Bruce Montague as Ernest and Juliet Mills as Delia in Bedroom Farce

Bedroom Farce

Wolverhampton Grand

****

ANY comedy written by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Peter Hall has a head start when the curtain rises and when you throw an excellent cast to keep things moving at a cracking pace then you are on a winner.

The plot is fairly simple and revolves around four married couples over the course of one night and, despite the farce in the title, there is a distinct shortage of trousers around ankles, bras and knickers and people hiding in cupboards.

The play first saw the light of day in Scarborough in 1975 although this new production hardly shows its age - except perhaps that all the couples are married and no one swears. Hall, who directed the original production with Ayckbourn in London in 1977 has done an excellent job in this revival which appears sparklingly fresh and new.Perhaps he is helped by the fact relationships and their ups and downs have changed little through the ages and there is plenty in the script for any couple to recognise in both themselves and friends.

Trevor (Oliver Boot) and Susannah (Natasha Alderslade) are mad as hatters and having marital difficulties.

Then there is Nick (Maxwell Caulfield) who spends the entire play in bed with a bad back is married to Trevor's ex Jan (Claire Wilkie) who has not quite got over Trev.

ALMOST NORMAL

Jan heads off, as she has promised, to the housewarming of almost normal couple  Malcolm (Ayden Callaghan) and Kate (Julia Mallam) leaving Nick hardly able to move under his duvet.

Malcolm and Kate who have lots of friends, or at least lots of friends' coats, at their party also have Trev and Suse which is living dangerously.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Delia (Juliet Mills) and Ernest (Bruce Montague), Nick's parents - who eat pilchards and toast in bed because they had run out of sardines - are off to celebrate their anniversary. With me so far?

Trev and Suse are already on a war footing so it is no surprise when it all kicks off hotting up the housewarming no end with the final straw being Trev kissing Jan as Suse walks in and rushes out in tears breaking up the party to boot.

Trev, full of self pity and self loathing, is first going to inflict himself on Malcolm and Kate but first decides he has to go round to Jan and Nick to sort it all out while Suse head's off to Trev's parents to ensure everyone is involved in the marital crisis.

The set of three bedrooms is effective and helps to keep up a rapid pace as Ayckbourn explores relationships and the different attitudes of old and young. The play, according to the programme, is set in the 1970s although that is hardly noticed as there are no references in script or staging to any particular period and it could quite easily be set sometime this week.

Amid plenty of competition Montague takes the acting honours for some beautifully timed comic touches as Ernest who is the undoubted head of his household except of course when anything happens at which point his wife reduces him to junior partner. I think it is called marriage.

Each couple though manages some finely observed points which brought as much recognition as laughter in an entertaining evening in this Bill Kenwright production. To 20-11-10.

Roger Clarke 

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