SEE HOW THEY RUN
Hutton Players at Brentwood Theatre
A quintessential English farce: coincidences and cross-purposes, mistaken identities and vicars with no trousers. And very much a period piece, though when it was written it was contemporary, the victory bells still some months in the future.
It's given an affectionately polished production by William Wells for Hutton Players. His large cast work hard to keep up the pace and capture the sublime silliness of the plot. All in a spacious, beautifully designed set with french windows, fireplace and the suggestion of a solid flight of stairs.
Four dog-collars and a pectoral cross amongst the dramatis personae: Roy Hobson is very funny as the kosher clergyman – archetype of a kind of vicar long since extinct. James Biddle the visiting preacher amusingly bemused by the chaos in the vicarage. The “also-ran” Hun on the run is Lewis Symes, and the “cheery old soul” the Bishop of Lax is played by Gavin Leary – a nicely timed performance, though a little more gravitas and a good pair of gaiters might have helped. Law and order is represented by Ed Harvey's sardonic sergeant.
Survivors of a tour of Private Lives are “a caution” in trousers, actress and bishop's niece, now the vicar's unruly wife, confidently played by Laura Fava, and, Elyot to her Amanda, Gary Ball's Clive, witty and hysterical – a fine physical performance. Ida the maid, struggling to bring sanity and order to the vicarage, is given an endearingly authentic characterization by Eleanor Burgess.
Many of these are classic figures of farce, a wonderful gift to the actor. None more so than the frustrated spinster of this parish, played in this case by Lindsey Crutchett in an outstanding tour-de-force. She doesn't miss a single trick; every moment is milked for laughs: losing control of her legs, sliding down the wall, snoring, hitting the cooking sherry … She looks the part too – sensible shoes of the right vintage, stocking seams, tweed two-piece.
Not all the accents were echt period RP, not all the laughs were perfectly timed. But even on opening night we enjoyed a truly hilarious two hours traffic of the stage: the Harvest Capers, the funny walks, and, at the end, the plot re-capped in impressively slick cross-talk.