The trouble with maintaining very high standards is that if those standards drop even slightly it has more of a negative impact than if the original standard had been of a lower expectation.
Thus is the case at the Watermill and this production of the famed Aldwych farce. It is indeed still difficult to criticise any of the cast, who work hard at their twenties characterisations yet some of the doubling is not ideal and the requisite over-acting of farce takes some time to settle in before the audience can enjoy a satisfactory appreciation.
Neither is the action explosively funny as befits the legendary Aldwych label. There are the obligatory doors through which entrances and exits should cause uncontrollable laughter but this level of hysteria is not reached either in the speed of execution of the plot or through Heather Davies’ direction.
The best performances are reserved for the male roles with John Sackville well cast as the caddish, upper-class crook Freddy Malone, Oscar Pearce as the incurably foolish D’Arcy Tuck and James Bradshaw as the bookish Oswald Veal as well as John Ashton’s interrogative Chief Detective Inspector Sibley. Ellie Piercy is convincing as Joan Hewlett with Kirsty Besterman as Freddy’s “sister” Prudence.