18 Suffolk Street, London SW1Y 4HT 020 7930 8800
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From 27th September until 16th December 2023.
Backstage is chaotic, on stage even more so...
Michael Frayn's hit farce of 1982 returns again to the West End stage, following a UK tour and smash hit run at the Phoenix Theatre in Spring 2023.
(seen at the Phoenix Theatre at the afternoon performance on 2nd February 2023). Some actors have now left the cast.
Just before lockdown, the monkey saw a 4 star production of this at the Garrick Theatre. It enjoyed it well enough to give it that rating, but wondered if the show was a little tired and somewhat over-rated.
This new version, using the same set, proves that the cast counts, and what a cast it is.
Joseph Millson steals the show as Garry Lejeune. Slapstick his forte, yet confident as a romantic lead to hold the show together with an iron grip on the stage and an audience dying to see just what his body will do next.
Unexpected love interest Dotty Otley, several years his senior, allows Felicity Kendal two solid hours of sardine entertainment. Her revulsion at the fish by the end of the third act is matched by a spiralling nose-dive into hilarious confusion. Back-referencing not only using the text but every movement and gesture built up throughout, it is a masterclass in acting and proof that to play comedy an actor must be sound in drama first.
As that “sound actor,” Jonathan Coy is wonderful as Frederick Fellowes. Stalwart of theatre yet thrown by just about everything from motivation to the slightest hint of violence. A potentially dull repetition, Coy comes up with ever more inventively detailed means to thwart himself.
Nearly as reliable, but with a far greater grip on the gossip, Tracy-Ann Oberman’s Belinda Blair is a vision in pink, reliable in a crisis and totally unable to extricate herself from the mesh into which she gleefully wraps her character.
Considerably more detached, young leading lady Sasha Frost as Brooke Ashton tunes in and out like a faulty wi-fi signal. Bringing the anachronistically stocking-clad persona up to date by embellishing her with dignity and self-control her confused moments when paying attention are cherishable.
Joining her in the tuned-out club, soused Seldon has Matthew Kelly finding nirvana. The art of playing a role completely straight in order to be hilarious is a gift. Kelly has always had it, and here he is lavish with it for our delight.
Pairing Stage Manager Tim Allgood (Hubert Burton) and Assistant Stage Manager Poppy Norton-Taylor (Pepter Lunkuse) as a hapless pair in a helpless situation brings out the best in both. Burton takes a more adult approach to the role, which pays off as events which he should be in control of overtake him. Lunkuse simply amuses as events mow her down with Burton pushing the mower.
And then there is our director. Alexander Hanson’s Lloyd Dallas is a talentless bully, overbearing womaniser and the scariest thing in the stalls since the price of ice-cream sold at the interval. He knows his job, but gets the production he deserves with the methods he employs.
Real director Lindsay Posner keeps the energy incredibly fast-flowing, so that even the tricky third act ends on a high. This is a gloriously cast and directed production, and first choice over “Nothing On” if choosing between them.
(from the previous run at the Phoenix Theatre in Spring 2023)
The show itself was phenomenal! Brilliantly done and had such a good laugh.
There’s so much physical comedy (is that the right term?) that even though you can’t see faces when they are upstairs, you still know what they are feeling and what is going on.
I think it’s the first farce I’ve seen that really worked. The second act was brilliant - I thought the behind scenes was so clever and everyone was so in tune with each other. Other audience members were similarly raving on the way out. And I love the programme within a programme, to fit the play within a play.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Runs 2 hours 20 minutes approximately.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.
Some details will change, the monkey will update as available.