Guildonians at the Little Theatre, Harold Wood
Something of a stylistic exercise for playwright Neil Simon – the challenge of farce too hard to resist, maybe.
He's managed a classic of the genre – mistaken identities, frantic activity, improbabilities piled high. This is the British version, relocated to Surrey, though without the nuances of class and milieu that might suggest.
Chrissie O'Connor's hugely enjoyable production for Guildonians was pacy and meticulously plotted. The set-pieces – lost ear-rings, phone duologue – were stylishly and confidently done. The six-door split-level set was a masterpiece, and the Eighties were lovingly evoked – big hair, shoulder pads, La Bamba on the huge stereo, hostess trolley … The guests at the party were elegantly dressed, though not everyone convinced as the sort of moneyed person who flits from one charity do to another.
But there wasn't a single weak performance in this ten-strong cast. Particular plaudits to Kevin O'Connor as Ken – hilarious when deafened – and Charlotte Jones as his wife Chris, with a nice line in terminal exasperation. Copy-book comic timing from Tim Tilbury as Len, with a brilliant monologue in the closing minutes, and a splendid stock character from Tony Szalai as the weary copper who tries to make sense of all the stories.