Theatregoers who missed Frances de la Tour when The History Boys transferred to the West End will be overjoyed to find she has taken up blissful residence in a revival of this witty French farce, a sixties hit which ran for seven years but has not been seen since.
She plays a lugubrious Parisian maid-of-all-work, whose job is to provide appropriate international cuisine and sleeping arrangements for the comings and goings of three air-hostesses – each from a different airline – bed companions of her overconfident boss.
Bernard studies Orly flight schedules to keep his young mistresses apart. But with a combination of super-fast Boeings and bad weather, the three turn up in his apartment at the same time, resulting in hilarious complications brilliantly orchestrated by Matthew Warchus in six fast-paced scenes of slamming doors and frantic fibs.
Roger Allam plays the suave Bernard, whose sex life is about to collapse in confusion, helped by the arrival of Mark Rylance as his old school chum Robert, a shy but impressionable innocent from the provinces who learns fast, takes control and ends up soundly kissed and unexpectedly betrothed.
The trio of girls are led with tremendous attack by Tamzin Outhwaite as the aptly-named Gloria, a TWA hostess with the mostest in glamour, vocal power and all-American pizazz. Completing the cast are Daisy Beaumont as Alitalia’s romantic Gabriella (here transformed from the Air France original) and Michelle Gomez as Gretchen, representing Lufthansa with a more than strident touch of the Rheinmaidens.
But marvellous as they all are, the evening belongs to droll De la Tour, whose gloomy deadpan face and resentful exits through the service door offer superbly timed comedy, assuming airy diffidence as she pauses while answering the telephone, turning headlong farce into exquisite comicality.
I laughed a lot, and so will you.
Comedy, London, February 3-April 28
- Marc Camoletti and Beverley Cross
- Matthew Warchus
- Sonia Friedman Productions, Act Productions
- Roger Allam, Frances De La Tour, Mark Rylance, Tamzin Outhwaite, Michelle Gomez, Daisy Beaumont
- Running time
- 2hrs 35mins