Once upon a time, and a long time ago, matinee audiences in provincial
theatres on the No. 1 touring circuit used to be treated to tea and biscuits
in their seats in the interval. They would doubtless have been watching
something not dissimilar to Snakes and Ladders, an
amusing light comedy requiring no more than a brain cell and a half and a dollop of indulgence.
Today's audiences are more sophisticated, though, and while no longer being afforded the
courtesy of light refreshments in their seats, are apparently still being
served up the same time-warped theatrical entertainment. Yes, the show is
vaguely amusing, in a sort of lace curtain sit-com sort of way, and it
sports two B-list, former TV stars in Paul Nicholas and Ian Ogilvy, but
surely they stopped writing this sort of play when (as Noel Coward would
have it), my grandmother fell off the high wire?
Author Eric Chappell was once king of television comedy with Rising Damp, Duty
Free and others. Rising Damp is still a classic of its type with class-divide plots and strong characterisation. This latest offering, however, is
replete with one-dimensional caricatures and a plot involving mistaken
luggage that is more or less unravellable by the end. The farce is,
nevertheless played fast, under Jeremy Meadow's sure direction, and
doesn't outstay its welcome.
The plot concerns a cash-poor couple (Nicholas and
Judy Buxton) who sneak a holiday at Buxton's boss's Spanish holiday
villa. Unfortunately, the villa appears to have been double booked for no sooner are they
through the door than in trounces Ogilvy and his squeaky girlfriend
(newcomer, Rachel Rhodes, excellent). Ogilvy plays a TV has-been who still
fancies himself. The two couples appear to have mistakenly picked up each
other's holdalls at the airport, but then discover three-way confusion with
an identical case containing a 1/2 million pounds in used notes. This may or
may not belong to a gangster called 'Mad' Moon (Peter G Reed, giving the
most amusing and barmiest performance of the evening) and a man called
Raynor who may or may not be a policeman. There ensues endless opportunities
for mistaken identity, switching of bags and the like.
This is all played out in front of one of those ageless touring sets that
flashes up "all expense spared". Nevertheless, the cast take it at a canter,
run around a lot and provide some amusing moments. The one-liners are
classic television comedy, not a cliché left unearthed, and the audience
seems to enjoy the dubious pleasure of recognition. Nicholas plays, well,
Nicholas. Likewise Ogilvy.