Show: Bang Bang!
Society: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Millbrook, Guildford, Surrey
Credits: By John Cleese. Based on the play, Monsieur Chasse, by Georges Feydeau. Dermot McLaughlin Productions LTD, in association with Farces Galore LTD, presents the Exeter Northcott Production
Performence Date: 03/03/2020
Chris Abbott | 04 Mar 2020 09:35am
At a time when the news is ever more serious it was an attractive prospect to spend an evening in the company of an experienced cast of farceurs, and Bang Bang! totally lived up to expectations.
Based on Feydeau’s Monsieur Chasse, this is an adaptation by John Cleese with a deft script that includes all the necessary action but does so in a running time of little more than two hours including the interval. The production has been touring for a while and now has the feel of a well-oiled machine and may well have benefitted from some cuts and streamlining during its travels.
Farce is a very difficult genre to get right, and it was good to see a group of students from a local drama school in the rather thin audience at the Yvonne Arnaud. They will have learnt much from this cast under the direction of Daniel Buckroyd, who has ensured that all the coming and going through various doors and cupboards is timed to the greatest effect. As with all Feydeau, the characters here are broadly drawn and little more than stereotypes, but that is their function. Even the smaller roles benefit from a grasp of the necessary style, including Andy Secombe as a very West Country Cassagne who reminds us when he enters that he is largely there to drive the plot. As the maid, Vicki Davids is the only character to sport a French accent, much fun being had with this and with other metatheatrical moments. I loved the moment after an aside: “Did you say something?” “No, I was talking to the audience.” Daniel Burke is a dapper young nephew although we don’t see much of him until he comes into his own in the final moments of the play.
As the wronged wife now dallying with the local doctor, Tessa Peake-Jones is a commanding presence and understands totally the necessity of staying serious and playing the part for real. As her errant husband, Tony Gardner provides a master class in alternating exasperation and deviousness, and has a light touch and some great gags with the props, especially his rival’s book of poems. Wendi Peters is the concierge in charge of some very busy rooms, and proves vastly entertaining, even throwing in a song to accompany a very impressive set change. She is a versatile actress and is well cast here.
Perhaps the most impressive contributions to the evening are from the remaining members of cast and creative teams. Designer David Shields provides some glorious frocks, worthy of Guildford’s heyday, and a witty and adaptable set which can be totally transformed in a matter of minutes. It also looks totally at home with a Feydeau farce and all the doors, cupboards and beds are suitably solid – not always a given. The other person to mention is Richard Earl as Dr Moricet. Physically, vocally and in every other way, this is an actor who knows how to deliver farce and to make the most of the situations in which he finds himself trapped.
It may not be the best of Feydeau, but hey we don’t get much of him these days; in serious times and with our currently political leaders, there must be a role for farce when it is as well-performed as it is here.