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Boeing Boeing (tour - Lowestoft, Marina Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Froth is by its very nature effervescent stuff. Prod at it too clumsily and it collapses before your eyes. French farce may well be appreciated this side of the Channel, but it doesn't always travel well, especially when it's of a period which teeters on the brink of almost being historical.

Take, for example, the boulevard comedy bubble-bath which is Marc Camoletti's Boeing Boeing in the English version by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans. Did we really, way back in the early 1960s, think that being an air hostess was one of the most glamorous careers possible, leading to an even more dazzling marriage and that planes ran to strict timetables? I suppose that we did.

But when you put that same set of circumstances before a 21st century audience, it requires the lightest of touches to make an audience engage, however superficially, with the characters. Patric Kearns' production whisks us a trifle too energetically through the amorous entanglements of Parisian bachelor architect Bernard who has three air hostess "fiancées", one American, one German and one French (no prizes for guessing which one will secure her man by the fall of the curtain).

He has a much-put-upon housekeeper (Anita Graham) and an old school-friend, all dewy-eyed gormlessness, straight up from the provinces who has come to visit. Philip Stewart as Robert has the audience on his side from the moment he comes in lumbered with a collection of mis-matched suitcases and falls foul of the trendier items of furniture in Bernard's flat. It's a fine comedy performance, though it does somewhat unbalance the play.

Ben Roddy is the man whose love-life is ruled by airline timetables and Bertha's ability to produce clean bedlinen and meals to suit any taste. Ciara Johnson is sweet little Gabrielle, from Air France; Kim Tiddy plays Gloria, the TWA vamp and Zoie Kennedy gives us Gretchen, who seems to harbour secret ambitions to be a dominatrix. All three sustain their accents well, too well on occasion for complete verbal clarity, and accept that they are national types not actual human-beings.

Roddy isn't quite suave enough to convince as the man who will find his well-ordered existence crumbling when super-jets are about to be commissioned. Graham gets her laughs, but costume designer Mark Dooris, who kits the three girls out smartly in and out of uniform, is trying too hard when he equips Bertha with yellow stockings (a female Malvolio?) and bandana. At the end of the day, pace is everything in farce. Pace there certainly is, but perhaps delivered at the wrong throttle.


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