in the Cramphorn Theatre
Not easy, playing farce. How much more difficult for this early Bennett, where the farce, hilarious as it is with its comic-postcard characters, is just a facade, a front for a deeper piece altogether.
Janet Tomkins' production for Full Circle went at it with the simplest staging and admirable pace – three chairs, no waiting.
The quick-fire dialogue meant that some of the wit was lost – always a problem with Bennett - and sometimes the poignancy of the poetry was drowned in effects, like the pier-end piece with its glove puppets and surreal soundscape, or the wartime verses.
But the quality of the writing, and energetic work from the younger actors especially, made this an enjoyable evening. And some things worked really well – the "Liverpool" double take, the Buffalo number. But no excuse for trousers dropped clumsily – a staple of any farce worth its salt.
Dhugal Fulton was a watchable doctor, effortlessly mastering the style and the wordy passages, with Amanda Whiteford imposing as his wardrobe of a wife. Kate Austen was excellent as the dowdy daughter; David Anderson's Dennis was amusing, though too dim and too demotic for my taste. Penelope Lambton wrung every laugh out of Mrs Swabb, the omniscient chorus who pulls the whole farrago together, and Jeremy Battersby worked hard at the Priest with Five Fingers, audaciously steering his Chopper across the Cramphorn stage. Though his reading was camper and coarser than necessary, I felt.
The cast was completed by Teri Levett's snooty Delia, Emmy van Beek as her nubile daughter, Christopher Poke as the falsie fitter, Alan Thorley as the depressed Purdue [the actual hanging left to our imagination] and David Johnson as the four-foot Casanova Sir Percy Shorter.