Froth is by its very
nature effervescent stuff. Prod at it too clumsily and it collapses
before your eyes. French farce may well be appreciated this side of
the Channel, but it doesn't always travel well, especially when it's
of a period which teeters on the brink of almost being historical.
Take, for example, the
boulevard comedy bubble-bath which is Marc Camoletti's Boeing
Boeing in the English version by Beverley Cross and
Francis Evans. Did we really, way back in the early 1960s, think
that being an air hostess was one of the most glamorous careers
possible, leading to an even more dazzling marriage and that planes
ran to strict timetables? I suppose that we did.
But when you put that
same set of circumstances before a 21st century audience, it requires
the lightest of touches to make an audience engage, however
superficially, with the characters. Patric Kearns' production
whisks us a trifle too energetically through the amorous
entanglements of Parisian bachelor architect Bernard who has three
air hostess "fiancées", one American, one German and one
French (no prizes for guessing which one will secure her man by the
fall of the curtain).
He has a much-put-upon
housekeeper (Anita Graham) and an old school-friend, all dewy-eyed
gormlessness, straight up from the provinces who has come to visit.
Philip Stewart as Robert has the audience on his side from the
moment he comes in lumbered with a collection of mis-matched
suitcases and falls foul of the trendier items of furniture in
Bernard's flat. It's a fine comedy performance, though it does
somewhat unbalance the play.
Ben Roddy is the man
whose love-life is ruled by airline timetables and Bertha's ability
to produce clean bedlinen and meals to suit any taste. Ciara
Johnson is sweet little Gabrielle, from Air France; Kim Tiddy
plays Gloria, the TWA vamp and Zoie Kennedy gives us Gretchen, who
seems to harbour secret ambitions to be a dominatrix. All three
sustain their accents well, too well on occasion for complete verbal
clarity, and accept that they are national types not actual
Roddy isn't quite suave
enough to convince as the man who will find his well-ordered
existence crumbling when super-jets are about to be commissioned.
Graham gets her laughs, but costume designer Mark Dooris, who kits
the three girls out smartly in and out of uniform, is trying too hard
when he equips Bertha with yellow stockings (a female Malvolio?) and
bandana. At the end of the day, pace is everything in farce. Pace
there certainly is, but perhaps delivered at the wrong throttle.