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A Fox on the Fairway review at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch – ‘laughs are thin on the ground’

Sarah Quist and Simon Lloyd in a Fox on the Fairway at Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. Photo: Mark Sepple
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The costumes in Colin Falconer’s design are paint-box bright – scarlet, lime green and bilious yellow. There should be no room for subtlety in a farce and the acting too is satisfyingly broad-brush. The plot ought to be wound like clockwork, while demonstrating a believable, frenetic logic. And it should be funny.

Sadly, the laughs are sometimes thin on the ground, especially in the first half of this new farce – intended as a homage to the likes of Pinero and Ben Travers – by American Ken Ludwig, best known for Lend Me a Tenor and Crazy for You.

Quail Valley golf club’s secret weapon, a new member, has been poached by rival Crouching Squirrel Club, on the very day of the tournament. President Henry Bingham is likely to lose a bet, including his wife’s shop, to his counterpart in the loudest sweater, Dickie Bird, until he discovers the phenomenal talent of his new assistant, Justin.

A round of “catch” with an expensive vase, a lost engagement ring, a significant birthmark, a malfunctioning PA system broadcasting Henry’s desire for glam vice president Pamela to all including his hen-pecking wife, Muriel – these are typical ingredients, but the jokes are mostly laboured and the plotting lacks sufficient piling up of inevitable consequences.

Philip Wilson’s direction does gather speed in the second half. Falconer’s clubhouse bar is elegantly appointed and the cast does its very best with the material, including Natalie Walter as much-married sexpot Pamela, Damien Matthews as scheming Henry, Ottilie Mackintosh as wailing fiancee Louise and Sarah Quist who invests cartoonish Muriel with warmth. And they all execute the final jolly jig-with-golf-clubs with enthusiasm, but the script is too often mired in a bunker.

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Traditional in style, brightly designed and well-acted farce, that's lacking in madcap humour