Director Laurence Boswell has chosen Kenneth McLeish’s clever translation of the 1892 play Monsieur Chasse!, renamed The One That Got Away, for the second of his French farce season, and it’s a corker.
Duchotel’s piscatorial pursuits mean that his loyal and devoted wife Leontine has to spend her time tying flies and moving maggots from tin to tin, at the same time as flirtatiously parrying the advances of her husband’s best friend, the dashing Dr Moricet.
She holds him at arm’s length, but only as long as she is convinced of her husband’s fidelity. Once it seems that Duchatel is cheating, she arranges an assignation with the doctor, who has taken a love-nest in a house run by a former countess, fallen on hard times after the scandal of her liaison with a lion-tamer.
This brief synopsis suggests why Georges Feydeau was not just the farce king of the Belle Monde, but also recognised as the forerunner of Theatre of the Absurd.
Like all the best farces, the essential elements include doors, trousers, mistaken identity, frustrated flirting and a deal of “phew, that was a close shave” ing.
Polly Sullivan’s design at the Ustinov (the same as was used for the first farce of the season) provides coyly draped statues, balconies, keys, doors, wonky tables and the promisory bed, all framed in gilt (or was that guilt?)
Frances McNamee makes a welcome return to the Ustinov stage as the mercurial Leontine, with Richard Clothier as her handsome and ever hopeful suitor, Joe Alessi as her husband, Victoria Wickes as the faded “concierge” and Oscar Batterham, a former pupil of Kingswood School and recent recipient of the top graduate prize at the Guildhall as the marvellously modern nephew, Gontran.
This is high farce at its very best, a wonder of timing and motion, and JUST plausible enough to keep the audience gasping.
Don’t miss it.