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A Bedfull of Foreigners (tour - Southwold, Summer Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The fun is fast and furious, as it should be for a classic British farce from the early 1970s, set in those heady days of the mid-1960s when currency restrictions were tentatively lifted and people took European holidays for the first time since the 1930s. For many it was the first taste of “abroad”. Brenda and Stanley are one such couple.

They, in Dave Freeman’s A Bedfull of Foreigners, have arrived after a series of mishaps at a country hotel on the French-West German border. It’s run by Heinz and has seen better days – not to mention more efficient staff than concierge-cum-handyman Karak. Another guest is Helga, married to Claude (who says he’s a diplomat, but isn’t, and is there to meet with his bit-on-the-side Simone – a cabaret artiste with attitude).

Offstage we have a village celebration and a visiting Bulgarian women’s cycling team. Quite a lot to cram onto a pocket handkerchief-sized stage with the requisite cascade of doors which stick, lights which fail, cuckoo-clocks with uneven chirps and radiators which go walkabout. Maurice Rubens’s set admirably encompasses all this while Anthony Falkingham’s direction keeps the action on its toes – and on its back when appropriate.

The company works well together. Terry Molloy is very funny as Stanley, who would really much rather be in Great Yarmouth (cue audience reaction), in spite of the female temptations who land (literally) in his lap. Iain Ridley’s harassed Heinz and Michael Shaw’s duplicitous Claude also give amusing characterisations, though I wasn’t quite as sure about Clive Flint’s Karak.

Sarah Ogilvy’s Brenda is a salt-of-the-earth wife; Penelope Rawlings as Helga by contrast presents a much smoother dish on the distaff side. Simone is a shrewd little cookie; I could believe that Rosanna Miles knows all the ways in which to check whether a lover’s gift is of diamonds – or just paste. The costumes by Miri Birch are right for the period. All in all, it’s ideal seaside holiday fare.


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