If farce to you means "Whoops, Vicar, I can explain everything about my Beethoven Y-fronts over the red setter's head," this will be a gust of fresh air. Peter Kenvyn's programme notes rightly point out that Feydeau's 1892 farce comes from a tradition both more scandalous and more moral than the British. Well, of course it centres on several exchanged pairs of trousers (No Flies, geddit?!) in a darkened room with several doors, where a husband and wife are both trying to have it adulterously away, but the mechanics are more than equalled by the mordancy both of the original script and of Kenvyn's spiky, springy English version.
Janet Suzman's direction meshes expertly with the tone, relishing characters' quirks while never (with the primary characters, at least) dipping towards formulaic caricature. Tamsin Greig's Leonie Hunter is a delightfully fraught, repressed wife with the vocal range of Diamanda Galás but much more flair for comedy; Sally Mates, as an aristocrat-manquée landlady, steals all her scenes (and, on the press night, an extra one, creeping on to brush up an accidentally broken bottle). The Chelsea Centre could hardly have made a better choice to inaugurate its policy as a producing venue. Splendid stuff.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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