It begins with a menage of lust, lies and carefully timetabled liaisons with three airline hostesses. Then it escalates into a melange of unplanned confusion. And finally erupts into a melee of sexual cover-ups. No wonder this is the most performed French farce on the planet.
Robin Herford’s production strikes a skilful balance, gradually building the comedic chemistry between Robin Simpson’s conceited Bernard juggling three airborne fiancees at once, and Ben Porter’s nervy Robert attempting to prevent the global trio from arriving simultaneously, while driving the mechanics of farce to the max on Michael Holt’s door-dominated set where the Louis Quinze furniture is as faux as Bernard’s love life.
What’s striking here though is not just the precarious situation loaded with danger as both men wobble on the brink of being found out. The victors in this war of the sexes are the women who fall for Bernard’s smarm and Robert’s goofy charm, yet turn out to be ballsier than either of them.
When, finally, the boudoir door-slamming stops, Maeve Larkin’s fiery Italian and Sarah Lawrie’s fearsome German retain total control of the doorknobs. And Laura Doddington’s Gloria may be an all-American hostess with the mostest, but takes charge of her own sex life too. Even Gilly Tompkins’ stroppy housemaid eventually gets the guys grounded.
True, some less frenetic scenes don’t quite click. But this is, overall, a refreshing revival of a sixties classic that leaves one wondering why Don’t Dress For Dinner – Camoletti’s equally funny sequel – isn’t done as often.
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