TAKE 18 characters in the entrance hall of a country house on Christmas Eve, a cocktail tray, illicit romances, true love and the best laid plans, throw in four actors, sleight of hand, fleet of foot and versatile of voice.
You have the perfect recipe for an evening of astonishing fun and frolics, served up by New Old Friends as the seasonal entertainment for audiences at Bath Theatre Royal’s Ustinov Studio until 8th January, and properly described as a frantic festive farce.
The quartet – Emile Clarke, Kirsty Cox, Eamonn Fleming and Sedona Rose – provide an extraordinary array of classic characters, three changing at breakneck speed that not only requires physical flexibility and a masterful (can you still say that, or is it personful?) command of accents, but huge concentration as to which costume comes next. Sedona even encapsulates a tender scene between two lovers, Mitzy and Len, at the same time.
It falls to Eamonn, the dependable butler Fambridge, to sort out the three trysting couples and to keep them apart, with endlessly inventive explanations for their presence in the house, which was supposed to be closed for Christmas.
Emile, a tall gangly man, managed brilliant contrasts between his entitled-but-dumb lord of the manor, the gallic lover Claude and the cataclysmically stupid posh-boy fiance (in a respectful nod to the majority of the Cabinet).
Kirsty, a New Old Friends stalwart, had eight characters to bring to life, including a choir of Christmas angels telling their glad tidings at the door.
It’s a sparkling confection, taking the best and most familiar situations of a number of famous farces and creating a feast of fun.
If there was a show to banish Omicronic fears, this should be it.
Photographs by Pamela Raith Photoraphy