Laughter filled the Queens Hall in May as the Cuckfield Dramatic Society’s production of “Anyone For Breakfast?” turned the clock back to the 1980’s.
Costumes, music and set took us back to a time before mobile phones and when people were not always online. On a foggy winter night two couples are trying to have extramarital affairs, but a series of mistaken assumptions, the weather, and unlucky timing fills the bedrooms with a set of frustrated overnight guests.
Author Derek Benfield acted with Brian Rix and this gentle farce is one of over 30 that he wrote during a long dual-career as playwright and actor. His carefully built up pace and ironic dialogue allowed CDS to produce tears of joy in the audience as they brought his larger than life characters to the stage.
Timing and delivery are important in any comedy, but even more so in this genre and it was clear that the company were well-rehearsed and confident of their ability to deliver. More than one audience member was heard to say the production was of a professional standard and CDS should be very pleased with their efforts.
Married couple Shirley and Gilbert are both are engaged in secret affairs, Shirley with her friend Jane’s husband Roger, and Gilbert with an airhostess. The play starts with Shirley lending her house to Jane for her first assignation with her putative lover Mark.
Shirley (Caroline Denholm) is a confident woman clearly practiced at extra-marital affairs, but of course her plans do not go smoothly. Not only does her night with Roger (while Jane is occupied) go awry but her husband comes home unexpectedly to indulge in some hanky-panky of his own. Shirley’s withering put-downs to Gilbert and Helga were given extra piquancy by her own guilty reactions and her frantic attempts to keep her own indiscretions under wraps.
Kirsty Bishopp excelled as first time adulteress Jane, finding a perfect combination of nervousness, then passing through frustration into panic after first Gilbert, then eventually her own husband appear on the scene.
Simon Perkins played Mark, an honestly moral dupe, who arrives dressed for a formal dinner, having failed to realise what Jane is looking for, or that she is married and then to whom! Quickly bemused on arrival he remains in side-splitting ignorance until the play’s final denouement.
Gilbert (Lawrence Leng) starts the play already unsettled by the prospect of infidelity in his own house, before he is confused and panicked by the array of unexpected visitors. He memorably explains the presence of Helga in a state of undress as “the new cleaning lady” and his desperate efforts to escape detection made for plenty of giggles.
Indeed the cleaning lady, who is really a Lufthansa airhostess (this being written before political correctness) Helga (Samantha Oliver) made us all snigger as well with both her accent and her repeated attempts to get Gilbert into bed, or failing that her readiness to console herself with champagne.
Jane’s husband Roger (Paul Davey) is an amiable but bumbling figure (almost as confused as Mark) who arrives looking for Shirley but instead plays gooseberry in a particularly hilarious scene while seated between Gilbert and Helga on the sofa. Further laughs ensue when Mark and Roger meet in the morning, each half-dressed but understanding nothing of who the other is.
Overall this was a very well executed entertainment which made for a great night out. Matching the excellent standard of the acting CDS upheld its standards of high quality costumes and sets, (especially important in a farce where doors are continually being opened and slammed). Sound, lighting and stage management were also quietly and efficiently delivered without distraction.
Even with a strong script and capable actors a production as well polished as this does not always come easily or without a lot of hard work. Director Harriët Sheldon is to be congratulated on bringing Cuckfield a superb entertainment which was a credit to the village.