WHEN this new production of the now-veteran farce, which started life in 2013, opened at the Theatre Royal in Bath on the 20th April this year, there was every excuse for the production not to run smoothly.
Defying any doubters it came up as fresh as a daisy, running smoothly on all levels, with the new cast bedded in playing like a team that was already well on its way to becoming an accomplished group of farce players.
Two and half months, and nine venues, later, they arrive at Bristol Hippodrome, with variations in cast, setting out to prove that they can work their comedy magic as well on one of the country’s biggest stages, as they did in the more intimate atmosphere of Bath’s Theatre Royal.
Playing at a frenetic pace, with visual and verbal gags tumbling over one another to draw laughter from the audience – and with no signs of staleness having crept into the performances – you have to give this production an A-Star rating for effort.
For all of that effort, there was no doubting that the intensity and volume per audience member was greater at Bath than at Bristol. That is not to say that the Hippodrome audience did not enjoy the pantomiming and verbal comic dexterity of Gabriel Paul, Beth Lilly, Colin Barnicle, Steve Rostance, Harry Boyd (replacing Kazeem Tosin Amore for this performance), Damien James, Aisha Numah, Edi De Melo and the backup team. The laughter may not have been so raucous, but the enjoyment level was just as high, as was the warm response at the end of the evening.
It takes hours of arduous rehearsal and acting talent to make dozens of visual jokes crowded into this script work. Scenery that collapses around actors missing them by inches, doors flying open to apparently hit some in the face rendering them unconscious, a frantic battle to prevent furniture rolling off a sharply slanting collapsing bedroom floor, are all only as funny as they were in this production when timed to perfection.
And when not involved with mimed comedy, the actors were very often faced with jiggling dialogue which was a mixture of a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song and a tongue twisting Danny Kaye comic lyric. Add to that the necessity of bringing the audience into a gag by means of holding a long pause and look, and you have the ingredients for some great comic business. To say that the company took advantage of every opportunity to raise a laugh that was on offer would be to overpraise them. To say that they more than just adequately succeeded in what they set out to do, give their audience an evening full of fun and laughter would be an accurate description of this throughly entertaining evening.
The production continues at the Hippodrome, Bristol until Saturday 9th July.