Four husbands, four wives, three mistresses and two singletons – but only eleven characters on stage. It has to be a farce, in this case one of the Ray Cooney collaborations with John Chapman so redolent of the “never had it so good” late 1960s. In the case of Bruce James’ new touring production, there’s additional unscripted dialogue by audience-favourite Damian Williams.
Not Now Darling takes place in a Mayfair fur salon, the sort of luxury outlet where men come to treat their wives (and also their mistresses). There’s a problem here: fake fur looks even less real on the stage than it does in the street. Partner Gilbert Bodley (Williams) is trying to sneak a mink out of the stock-room, onto the back of strip-tease artiste Janie (Holly Easterbrook) while his wife – who actually owns the business – Maude (Steph Parry) is away.
Enter a confusion of clients, all of whom have double if not triple agendas, while junior partner and designer Arnold Crouch (a study in well-timed deadpan reactions by Philip Meeks) tries to smooth down the ruffled skins (both animal and human). Richard Colson is the somewhat dotty Cdr Frencham with Sarah Whitlock as his battleaxe of a wife. Grace Alexander-Scott has fun as the prim secretary Miss Tipdale.
This sort of farce requires female decoration, ideally in the near-nude and with long legs. Easterbrook, Jessica Day and Hannah Deakin oblige, with Ben Roddy and Alex Newbold as a brace of philandering husbands and lovers. Doors slam, clothes are discarded and champagne is poured – not to mention spilt. I always think that farce is at its funniest when the cast takes the daft situations as seriously as the characters they portray. Ad-libs curdle the froth.