Sir Peter Hall knows a thing or two about Ayckbourn. In particular, he knows a thing or two about Bedroom Farce, having co-directed the National Theatre’s original London production with the playwright in 1977.
Now, courtesy of producer Bill Kenwright, he has revisited the work and is taking it on tour after a successful run in the West End.
As its name implies, it has moments of high comedy and plenty of bedroom action. That most of it is to do with anything other than sex is typical of Ayckbourn.
Four couples, three bedrooms, two disastrous parties and one bad back make up the components, which Ayckbourn weaves with his customary genius and dexterity to offer a painful portrait of relationships in various stages of disintegration.
Hall’s production gives us the three bedrooms square on, occasionally losing some of the complexity of the unfolding action in the process, but Peter Mumford’s lighting and the costumes of Mark Bouman and Mia Flodquist serve their purpose superbly, with the mid-70s setting perfectly evoked.
Although billed as a husband-and-wife acting couple, Juliet Mills and Maxwell Caulfield play roles that barely interact at all, each ‘married’ to other people in the play and with him confined to bed with that back. Both put in strong performances at either side of the stage, while most of the farcical aspects roll out in the bedroom between them, that of Malcolm and Kate, the young couple throwing a housewarming party that is ruined by the warring Trevor and Susannah.
Ayden Callaghan and Julia Mallam are touchingly naïve as Malcolm and Kate, while Oliver Boot and Natasha Alderslade go suitably manic with their scrapping pairing.
Clare Wilkie is solid as the put-upon wife of the bedridden Nick, while there’s gravitas and experience from Bruce Montague as the bewildered, old-fashioned stickler Ernest.
The production sometimes lacks pace, and the delivery tends towards the stilted at times, but there are lots of laugh-out-loud moments and a genuine sensitivity to the cleverness of the script. It’s good, traditional comic fare and will no doubt generate considerable acclaim on its tour round the regions.