"The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount go the longest way." So said Samuel Butler, author of Erewhon, although the sentiment might have fallen from Peter Tilbury's lips, the playwright of this slight, but undoubtedly funny, nouveau French farce.
Indeed, Tilbury's skill is to stretch the ubiquitous deception, infidelity, and art of cover-up to fill two 45-minute acts. Plotting is his strong point; dialogue is not - at least on this evidence.
Reliant on a fair measure of coarse language, and lines that are often more functional than sparkling, Tilbury's tale commences with Dr Jean-Pierre Moulineaux's Peter Davison fib about what he was doing the previous night - having illicit fun with newly married Suzanne Aubin Emma Pike - rather than tending to Marcel Bassinet Robert Swann, an angry sort who ends up being fatally caught in the bad doctor's machinations.
To every master there must be a faithful, and flexible, servant. In this case, it is Etienne, played with a little too much nonchalance by Anton Rodgers. Etienne is the habitual amanuensis, and he espouses an ironic and self-conscious view of his servile status. Liberal bribes grease his wheels, however, and once moneyed by his superiors, he forms the centre of a growing intrigue, one that involves young Gustave Bassinet Andrew Bone, Moulineaux's mother-in-law Brigitte Aigreville Harriet Thorpe, and the politely predatory Anatole Aubin Hal Fowler, amongst others.
Nor is Etienne alone in spinning a web. The doctor's philandering prompts much of the cunning. A second look at his surname reveals his essentially 'mixing' nature.
One player untouched by deceit is Jean-Pierre's virtuous wife Yvonne Polly Maberly, but even she ends up compromising her values as adulterous and marital matters reach a crisis - so to speak
James Merifield's quality set and costumes complement each other, in that they share an angular pattern found not only on the walls, floor and furniture, but also, in a witty touch, upon Suzanne's stockings and Moulineaux's boxer shorts.
The pride of the stage properties is the 'aortic dilator'. It's a fabulous concoction of springs, wheels and saws on wheels used for Moulineaux's medical fabrications.
Director Fiona Laird handles Tilbury's effervescent tale, one that echoes La Ronde in its sexual linkages, with suitable briskness.
Paul B Cohen