Bedroom Farce is a seriocomic take on one eventful night in the lives of four interconnected couples. It is Ernest and Delia’s anniversary; their son Trevor causes a scene with his troubled wife Susannah at the housewarming of young couple Malcom and Kate; also at the party is Trevor’s ex-, Jan, who has left her husband Nick in bed with a bad back.
The action takes place in three bedrooms, normally a safe and private place, though Trevor and Susannah between them cause chaos in all three. After their inevitable argument, in Malcolm and Kate’s bedroom, Susannah flees to her in-laws. Trevor and Jan share a kiss, after which Trevor decides he must tell Nick the situation.
In the hands of someone like Mike Leigh this set-up would take us into excruciatingly voyeuristic and embarrassing territory. Ayckbourn’s play, while it intelligently anatomises the failings as well as foibles of four marriages, is ultimately kinder.
Stefan Escreet’s production plays down the play’s potentially acidic take on relationships, hovering somewhere between comedy of manners and farce, and providing plenty of amusing moments. Martin Johns’ set has all three bedrooms on stage throughout, each one offering ‘Through The Keyhole’ clues about those inhabiting them.
Maggie Tagney and Stephen Aintree create some emotional warmth as the long-married couple Ernest and Delia, snacking contentedly on pilchards after their rather downbeat big night out. Their assured comic bickering brings the loudest laughs of the evening. Chris Hannon brings to life a Trevor who is comically unaware of his own dysfunctionality. His relative poise compared to Louise Yates’ broad-brush neurotic victim Susannah helps to make sense of the persistence of the marriage.
Adrian Metcalfe’s Nick is a study in self-centred exasperation with both his confinement to bed and Trevor’s invasion of his bedroom in the small hours to explain his stolen kiss. Zöe Mills’s Jan remains determinedly self-possessed in the face of an unrewarding marriage. George Banks and Jessica Ellis as the young marrieds Malcolm and Kate are determinedly nice, despite their relationship seeming just as flawed, even at the start, as all the others.
Despite some very good acting in places, this early performance does not quite find its feet in terms of pacing and the characterisation required to Ayckbourn's piece justice.