Farce to be really funny needs split-second timing. Multiple doors and windows are usually required for quick entrances and exits. The former is best provided by an ensemble used to working together and the latter by a large acting area and a healthy production budget. The Jill Freud Company at the Southwold Theatre has the ensemble skills and it’s surprising what can be achieved on a small stage by employing several levels.
Holiday Snap is a farce in the classic mould by genre experts Michael Pertwee and John Chapman. We’re in Portugal, in a brand-new time-share villa. There’s only one problem – initially – the retired commander in charge of the complex (short-sighted, over-fond of a large G&T and more than slightly amnesiac) has double-booked the accommodation to two very different couples. Eve and Leslie, as we’re soon made aware, are enjoying a clandestine holiday away from her abusive husband (who just happens to be Leslie’s boss).
As soon as they turn their backs, enter Henry and Mary. They’re far more middle-class (he’s a Harrow/Oxford -educated barrister) but the arrival of Henry’s mother-in-law (the slightly dippy Celia) makes it clear that, whoever Mary might be, she’s certainly not Celia’s daughter Catherine. Oh yes, and there are also two non-English-speaking servants, though we never meet them in the (real) flesh. On the other hand, Henry’s old school chum and golfing pal does eventually drop by.
Designer Maurice Rubens has done wonders with the set, given the cramped proportions of the stage area. Director Richard Frost keeps the fun on the boil and extracts just the right level of total seriousness from his cast which farce requires. Michael Hoskinson as Henry displays the sort of arrogance that makes you happy to know he’s going to get his comeuppance eventually and there’s a well-judged portrait of the dipsomaniac Commander (call me Chitto) by Paul Leonard.
The three women are also good. Rosanna Miles’ Eve with her skimpy bright-pink holiday outfit and too-high heels is obviously destined to run rings around any man she chooses to snare while Ann Wenn is initially cool as Mary, though the banked-down sparks soon fire up. Jill Freud plays Celia as someone who has reached that stage of life where what other people think doesn’t really matter, though if there’s a stick with a wrong end around, that’s the part she’s sure to grasp.
Ben Tillett does apparent gormlessness to fine effect as Leslie, a car salesman rapidly acquiring perfect pitch. Richard Gibson breezes on as the friend towards the end of the second act and thereby stirs the ill-matched cocktail of relationships even further. It’s all great fun, especially on a summer evening at the seaside.