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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at The Comedy Theatre, London

By John Nathan

  Mark Rylane and Daisy Beaumont/Photo: Manuel Harlan

In response to the avalanche of enthusiastic reviews enjoyed by this revival of Marc Camoletti's 1960s French comedy, one reader wrote to his newspaper to complain that the critics were wrong.

He said Boeing-Boeing reminded him of Terry and June, the 1970s husband-and-wife sitcom that has become a byword in Britain for tired, outdated, comedy.

The letter writer has a point, though the domesticated Terry would have been terrified by the late Camoletti's philandering hero Bernard (Roger Allam), an architect with three air hostess fiances on the go.

The arrival and departure of each member of Bernard's American (Tamzin Outhwaite), Italian (Daisy Beaumont) and German (Michelle Gomez) harem is meticulously timed according to their flight schedules, so that the trolley dollies never meet.

Bernard's visiting straight-laced school chum Robert (Mark Rylance) is more impressed than appalled at what Bernard calls "A perfect example of polygamous family life".

More appalled than impressed is Bernard's long-suffering housekeeper Bertha (Frances de la Tour) whose job it is to cater to the comings and goings in Bernard's swish, circular apartment ( design Rob Howell) where the frantic action takes place.

The farce gets predictably farcial when a new, faster Boeing and a storm results in all three fiances arriving at Bernard's flat for s triple stopover.

If it all sounds like a load of tosh, well it is. But look again at the cast-Allam, Rylance, and de la Tour. Their combined talent make nonsense of the adage "if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

The best of Matthew Warchus's slick production is delivered in-between the lines: de la Tour serves coffee with a saunter that is saturated with contempt for her employer; when Allam's Bernard returns to his flat with one fiance on his arm and realizes that the other two are in his ( off-stage) bedrooms, he hilariously recoils in apoplectic shock; and best of all is Rylance's Robert who is as deliriously funny when standing in silent bewilderment as he is when exploding in manic panic.

The leggy hostesses are given license to indulge in national stereotypes, an opportunity grasped by Gomez whose growling Gretchen deploys ever characteristic bar goose-stepping around the set.

The original London production--translated by Beverley Cross- basks in the glory of a record-breaking seven-year run of over 2,000 performances.

This version has a long way to go, but the recent extension to October is well deserved. Do try and catch it before a cast change though.


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