Stars explained: * A production of no real merit
with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not
enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real
life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A
good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely
achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a
great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major
flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic
which lifts theatre to another plane.
Anyone for Breakfast
Sutton Arts Theatre
The problem with extra-marital dalliances is there is so much to go wrong. So we have Jane, a would-be milf, or cougar, or whatever the current jargon is, waiting nervously and expectantly for her toy boy.
Except the house is borrowed from friend Shirley and the toy boy in question, picked up at the squash club it transpires, is blissfully unaware of the intended purpose for his invitation, believing he is merely one of many guests at a dinner party – expecting something more like leg of lamb than leg over, or in this case salmon rather then seduction.
Shirley is off to aerobics with a promise to stay the night with a friend if all is going well with Jane and her unsuspecting Tarzan.
But the best laid plans, and all that, never considered the thick fog which descends, which means Shirley’s husband Gilbert, who should be in Dusseldorf, is instead grounded – along with Helga, his Lufthansa air hostess and, should we say, international extra marital co-pilot.
So he arrives home for a bit of aeronautical nookie, and then we mustn’t forget Roger, Jane’s husband who turns up with a bunch of flowers; you can then throw in doors to dining room, kitchen and garden, stairs up to bedrooms and we have all the ingredients for classic British farce.
We have marital infidelity, or at least hopes of it, an attractive young lady in underwear, men with no trousers, lots of running about, keeping guilty secrets apart, and then there are the excuses with one tiny lie leading to another and another until a whole parallel universe is created. And, with the fog, everyone has to stay the night, which adds another layer of havoc.
Derek Benfield’s farce from 1991 has all the elements of the genre and, as per formulae, demands perfect timing from the cast to ensure amid the mayhem that entrances and exits all over the stage are simultaneous without anyone from the different liaisons catching sight of each other, leaving the audience waiting in anticipation for the inevitable scripted embarrassing moments of recognition. And the cast manage that well, not the easiest of tasks with the speed of personnel changes required at times.
Hellie England who plays the reluctant, attractive cougar Jane
Fay Arrowsmith is a homely Shirley and a generous one, willing to lend her house, and her bed, to fulfil Jane’s shaky fantasy, and then there is Hellie England’s Jane in her best red frock, cleavage to the fore, ready and waiting, except she isn’t. In fact she feels as seductive as a Sunday school teacher on a wet Sabbeth, with grave doubts about both whether she is attractive and whether she really wants to go through with it.
While toy boy Mark, in another fine showing from Christopher Commander, has no idea what it is he or she are supposed to be going through in the first place. He is just there for dinner – and takes refuge in the moral high ground when he discovers she is married. only then to be told her husband is a brute.
That’s fine until Gilbert arrives and is mistaken for her husband and Mark does his Sir Galahad bit to rescue her from the brute.
Which doesn’t help Helga one bit. She is loaded up on champagne, down to her underwear and ready for action. In fact Sophie-Louise Johnson’s Helga is the only honest one there. No deception, no subterfuge, no ever more bizarre excuses – she is there for one thing, ja, the nookie, plain and simple.
Then there is Jane’s husband Roger, splendidly underplayed by Allan Lane. Roger would be a fine alternative to Mogadon if his explanation of how he bought a bunch of flowers was anything to go by. By the time of the third telling even the three ducks on the wall were beginning to nod off.
Why he suddenly appeared apparently looking for his wife, who he knew was not there, clutching a bunch of flowers bought merely to help a station flower seller out, and because he could never resist a bargain, was a mystery – but one that would be solved many entrances, exits and an interval later.
Oh, and despite arriving in the fog, it is too foggy for him to leave so Roger is there for the night - and so is Jane, and never the pair must meet.
And orchestrating the mayhem is Gary Pritchard as Gilbert with an imagination which operates his mouth faster than his brain can keep up, finding ever more ludicrous explanations for patently obvious situations.
Gary Pritchard who plays the long distance lothario Gilbert, on a promise and not much else
Any bloke trying to convince his wife when she returns home that an attractive, shapely German girl, in sexy underwear, drinking champagne, seductively occupying the marital bed is the new cleaning lady will need a better excuse than that if he doesn’t want to sing soprano for the rest of his days.
And, sadly for Gilbert, as he is the only one on a promise, with all the house guests and the tale he has woven about Helga as the cleaner, his night of passion is growing more distant by the minute, which is as farce likes it.
The plot follows the well-trodden traditional path starting with the most unlikely of situations with the humour coming from how everything then gets out of hand aided, in this case, by the deception and downright lying from Gilbert, with the promise of sexual liaison or infidelity always there but always just out of reach, farce being very prudish in its seaside postcard sort of way.
And, when finally all the characters in this illicit sexfest – along with Mark, who was always more gallant than gigolo – finally come face to face over breakfast, it is all explained away to everyone’s satisfaction – or at least explained enough to protect everyone’s secrets and reputations. Lies they can live with.
So all’s well that ends well – except for the little twist at the end of course, a novelty in farce, a twist which is left hanging, and one that might just be a little difficult to explain away with a laugh.
Director Ian Cornock’s fine setting makes good use of the Sutton Arts stage to give us a period sitting room with the swing door into the kitchen a masterstroke, providing added layers of humour
Cornock has instilled a good pace to keep things moving along and the fine cast manage the split-second timing on the doors quite brilliantly. There were a couple of wobbles in Act 2 which will vanish with the opening nights out of the way but, in any case, they did little to detract from a fast-paced production. If you like farce then it is a thoroughly entertaining evening. To 13-05-17