We Found Love… Aboard the SS Farndale Avenue

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Beware the long title! David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jnr have written a whole series of farces about the fictitious Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society, of which the “Macbeth” is probably the best known (I remember it from its first London production decades ago).

Simon Thompson and the Little Theatre in Sheringham have settled on We Found Love and an Exquisite Set of Porcelain Figurines Aboard the SS Farndale Avenue this year. The play (well, actually it’s a musical) within a play is one of those 1930s shipboard-set concoctions with a sportsman and a playwright competing for the affections of a star actress.

Trouble starts when the Society finds its venue to have been double-booked. The DJ who has an actual contract grudgingly gives way to the ramshackle amateur production. Queen Bee of this is Phoebe Reece, who of course has grabbed the role of Constance Lombard for herself.

Her spiky assistant is Thelma Greenwood (who will play both swimming champion Beauregard St Clair and the liner’s steward); they take it all out on inefficient dogsbody Felicity Nunn (cast as a couple of female passengers as well as the porter and the captain).

Somehow gamey-legged Gordon Dawkin-Deed – a reluctant leading man with absolutely no idea of pitch – has been cast as Noel Nightingale (no prizes for guessing the inspiration for this character) and Gwendolyn. Ruper Mason has great fun with this as Matt Dunn’s set collapses all around him and the “special effects” go haywire.

Madeleine Brolly as Mrs Reece, Loraine Metcalf as Thelma and Sarah Langton as Felicity all revel in the assortment of characters they assume. I suspect that it will all speed up as the run progresses; there were longueurs on the opening night, but that frequently happens with farce. It’s a trickier genre to get right from the start than audiences perhaps realise.