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Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre - An Inspector Calls (with James Pellow)

Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Out of Order (Dunstable Rep)

I have been doing a lot of thinking this week. I often do a lot of thinking. Usually along the lines of ‘Where have I put my bloody car keys?’ or ‘Why has that stone cold certainty at Haydock Park come stone cold last, gasping for breath?’ Doesn’t do to be too cerebrally demanding at my age. But, as I say, I have been thinking. Mainly about farce. Seems appropriate in budget week even if, for a change, that annual event was less farcical than usual. Except for the spat surrounding a beer and bingo poster. That was fun. But I digress, as they say in the best circles. No, the farce I have been thinking about is those of a theatrical variety which seems appropriate seeing as this is a theatre blog. Notwithstanding those occasional intrusions about horses gasping for breath. Oh do get on with it for God’s sake; her indoors is losing the will to live.

Get on with it I will. Farce, of the theatrical variety, is bloody difficult. Do an Ibsen or a Chekhov or a Rattigan and there are various degrees of satisfaction. Outright misery at an excruciating turkey to unbounded joy at a masterpiece of presentation. And in between, subtle levels of appreciation. It ain’t like that with farce. It either works or it doesn’t. You either fly or fall straight off the cliff. Hit the heights or sink without trace. Choose your own metaphor. Just my opinion of course but I have been certified. This one, Dunstable Rep’s Out of Order, for those of you who have lost the thread, worked beautifully because it had leads who were completely believable, support that worked as a team, and a director who knitted them all together with first class pace and verve. Rarely were we allowed to think over the couple of hours of nonsense fun. That was vital. If the laughter stops and the audience grey cells start working, a die of doom can be cast. Have seen it many times in theatres up and down the land. They think farce is easy. It might seem so but it’s not, and that is why I take my hat off to director Roger Scales and his team. Good job really. It’s a pretty battered, unflattering, black one. My hat that is.  And it clashed dreadfully with Mr Scales’ colourful shirt in the foyer.

Hang on? Is that it? Aren’t you going to say anything about the plot? About the actors? About that team who toiled so hard and well? About the set? Well yes if I must but it is all so glowing I might get a bit boring. We like blood on this blog, if only of the theatrical kind. No bloodshed here. Joe Butcher was absolutely superb as Richard Willey MP, junior government minister bent on a clandestine hotel tryst. I cannot think of a local actor better suited to such a fruity part. He does harassed comic blustering with effortless aplomb and yet, crucially, always works as part of a coherent team. And that was a must in Ray Cooney’s frenetic piece on thwarted sexual coupling. His Willey, if you will pardon the phrase, was well matched by Anthony Bird’s cleverly observed portrayal of the hapless assistant, George Pigden. His was the sort of part you could imagine Claude Hulbert or Jonathan Cecil, you won’t have a clue who they are, lapping up. Well meaning and useless. If I would have liked a little more panic to be flashed in Mr Bird’s eyes at times that was my only nitpick. He was a simple and floundering foil for an increasingly stressed political master and together he and Mr Butcher spun the farcical script with style. And he jumped into sundry welcoming arms with gusto.

I shan’t regale you with the plot. Suffice to say, on an Alan Goss realistic and pleasing hotel suite set, a supposedly dead body and an over active sash window put paid to any prospects of horizontal activities. Hayley Vaughan impressed as the object of a politicians very non PC desires, Richard Garrett for an elderly waiter making unseemly fortunes at every opportunity, and Dave Hillman for a harassed hotel manager gleaming with liberal tins of Westminster polish. But with practically every daft entrance and exit from a variety of characters, including the delightful flashing of naked bottoms, there was not a serious weak link in a well drilled cast that fired with energy and pace. Alex Brewer, as the dead body, had neither naked bottom nor energetic pace but he made for a richly convincing corpse. It was all a load of rubbish of course, but if the play ran slightly out of steam at the end the playing never did. Nonsense of the highest order and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is nice, occasionally, not to have to think. Roy Hall

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