Rookery Nook review at Menier Chocolate Factory London
Terry Johnson’s blissfully funny revival of this enduring Aldwych farce sparks the biggest laughs in London since Boeing-Boeing, a production that looks tailor-made for a speedy West End transfer.
Written in 1926 with leading parts for particular actors, Ben Travers’ character-driven comedy remains a gift for a trio of not entirely innocent males led by Neil Stuke – perfect casting as the newlywed Gerald Popkiss – arriving late at a Somerset seaside cottage and visited in the night by Rhoda (Kellie Shirley), a sweet young thing in dew-sodden silk pyjamas seeking protection from her cruel Prussian stepfather.
Aided if not always abetted by his unmarried cousin Clive, a debonair role for Edward Baker-Duly, plus Mark Hadfield as the petrified, hen-pecked Harold, they strive to find clothes for her getaway to London, but are up against a second trio of fearsome female battleaxes.
Sarah Woodward does a terrific turn as Gerald’s doughty sister-in-law, a snarling dragon, bullying Harold with malicious glee and always suspecting the worst of male behaviour. Likewise, Lynda Baron as the daily woman, drawing all the wrong conclusions when she spots Rhoda coming out of an upstairs bedroom, while Clare Wilkie has the tricky role of the pouting, wronged wife Clara.
In this production, even the usually dull scene-setting opener crackles with cruel wit. A special word too for Victoria Yeates in her first major London role, as a gloriously abandoned flag-day flapper whose every appearance raises the comic potential.
Making spacious use of Tim Shortall’s full-width setting, Johnson’s staging gives full rein to physical comedy including Stuke with a golf club stuck down his right trouser leg, Hadfield air-pedalling and bobbing up and down with tireless energy, a rugger game with a bag full of female garments and almost every member of the cast in beautifully executed pratfalls. Joyous!
Menier Chocolate Factory, London, April 16-June 20
- Ben Travers
- Terry Johnson
- Menier Chocolate Factory, Sonia Friedman Productions
- Cast includes
- Edward Baker-Duly, Kellie Shirley, Neil Stuke, Sarah Woodward
- Running time
- 2hrs 10mins
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