FRENCH playwright Marc Camoletti’s farce Boeing Boeing, first performed 50 years ago, has become a staple of touring and amateur companies across the English, French and German speaking world, and a West End revival a couple of years ago packed them in again.
As a professional tour traverses the country, newly fledged company Stab in the Dark (which started life doing a Blackadder re-enactment as Pieshop Productions last year) decided to perform the gender-switch version, Going Going.
Instead of a glamorous French architect engaged to three international stewardesses (as flight attendants were known, this is the story of Bernadette, an English businesswoman living in Paris, engaged to a Lufthansa pilot, a TWA pilot and an Air France pilot – all with the aid of a detailed log of international flights.
She relies on her housekeeper Bertie for his culinary variety, organisational detail and ability to keep schtum.
But when her old schoolfriend Roberta turns up, an arrival coinciding with nasty weather over the Atlantic, the sauerkraut, pancakes and cognac are in danger of a serious melange.
Like all farces, this one depends on perfect timing, and that’s a tall order for an amateur company working on a cramped stage where the doors – three to bedrooms, one to a kitchen, one to a bathroom and one to the hall stairs – are in constant use.
The other big requirement is for excellent accents, and the three pilots did simply brilliantly, each keeping perfectly to his national brogue as well as perhaps caricature characteristics.
Jenny Tempier did a fine job of directing the “big scenes” and the whole thing was done with huge chutzpah, with the ushers and waitresses done up in 60s airline outfits, and the audience treated to instructions as to what to expect on the flight, complete with oxygen masks and a refreshment trolley.
The transition from the original play (and, oddly, M Camoletti is not credited in the programme) and this clever version is sometimes a bit haphazard, leaving Roberta stranded without explanation for her coming from Aix (en Provence or la Chapelle) when she was supposed to be English, as was Bernadette, whose job was left unspecified.
The drinking was hilarious. Even the most hardened tippler would have been in hospital after the amount they consumed on stage, and someone really should point out that Campari is taken with a splash of soda and a piece of orange, not glugged down as a short with a whisky snorter!
Martin Porter was a nicely John Inmanesque Bertie, and needs to be even more confident with his feather duster.
Charles Dillon is the disarmingly charming Julien, John Roberts-Davies the Bronx-raised John and Sam Skey a revelation as Jonas the very proper German.
Joni Clowrey revels in her first day in the big city, surrounded by glamorous men whose each of whose existence she must keep hidden from the others.
Bex Greenaway, in the central role of Bernadette, humourously deflates as the evening unravels her best-laid plans.
The show continues on Saturday 7th, and on Friday and Saturday 14th and 15th March.
A lot of the publicity has depended on social media, so there are still tickets to be had.
Fasten your seatbelts.