Touring productions featuring well-known TV faces often forsake quality in favour of stunt casting that equals ticket sales. A recent unfunny touring version of When Harry Met Sally was a prime example with Gaby Roslin completely miscast as American Sally Allbright. No such problems with this production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce, with each star tactically cast in this popular but dated comedy.
Three different bedrooms host all manner of farcical antics over one hectic evening. Malcolm (James Midgley) and Kate (Natalie Cassidy) are getting ready for their housewarming party in one bedroom while in another Jan Hannah Yelland, on her way to the party, leaves husband Nick (Timothy Watson) bedridden with a bad back. She bumps into old flame Trevor (Ben Porter) who has a public spat with his wife Susannah (Beth Cordingly). This argument affects Delia (Louise Jameson) and Ernest (Colin Baker) who are celebrating their anniversary by eating pilchards in bed and a knock at the door signals an unwanted intrusion.
Ayckbourn's writing here is very old fashioned and middle class in appeal but is still amusing. You will chuckle at these situations rather than split your sides and the actors keep the gentle humour flowing constantly.
Baker and Jameson are a classy double-act who engage the audience throughout. Cassidy is a delight, leaving Albert Square’s Sonia from EastEnders behind her and displaying a real knack for comedy. She is equally matched by her DIY loving husband, played with verve by Midgley. Susannah and Trevor are both annoying characters so it is a credit to Cordingly and Porter that they make them remotely likable.
The two best performances of the evening are Watson and Yelland as ill Nick and fed up Jan. They spit their lines out with venom making the contrived situations seem more believable.
Robin Hertford’s energetic directing adds pace, switching the action from bedroom to bedroom with ease. The material does feel quaint, insubstantial and stretched but with such commitment from the cast it moves along nicely.
The title says it all really: if you do not like slamming doors and frenetic comedy featuring fish, DIY, and slipped discs avoid. But if you want to be left amused and guilt-free I can think of worse bedfellows to spend an evening with.
Reviewed at The Lowry, Salford.
- Glenn Meads