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London Theatre Reviews

Orlando Seal, Sara Crowe, Finty Williams and Rachel Pickup/ Ph: Keith Pattison

NOT REALLY THE GOOD OLD DAYS

By NICK CURTIS

If you lived in Britain during the 1970s, you might be reminded of the bad television at the time while watching this one.

 

Time really hasn’t been kind to Alan Ayckbourn’s 1975 comedy. And director Peter Hall doesn’t do it many favours in this lackluster revival, either. Bedroom Farce has an exaggeratedly improbable plot and frankly unbelievable characters. It needs energetic, delicate, hyper-sincere playing in order to punch through a modern audience’s mingled sense of thin-lipped embarrassment and disbelief. Although Hall’s production gathers a kind of lumbering energy towards the end, it’s too little, too late.
 
Orlando Seale’s Trevor and Rachel Pickup’s Susannah are a super-neurotic couple who play out their marital anguish in the bedrooms of others. They ruin another couple’s party by fighting. She flees to Trevor’s stolid parents. (Yeah, right.) He kisses an old flame then crashed into her house to apologise to her new husband, who is laid up with a bad back. (Yeah, right, again.) Meanwhile, everyone else is doing "hilarious" things like eating pilchards or hiding each other’s shoes or building a rubbishy DIY desk in the middle of the night. A vast chunk of British entertainment in the 70s was like this. God, it was awful.
 
Underlying all the wackiness is a very bleak view of human partnerships. There’s no sex and very little affection going on in these three adjacent bedroom sets. The best we can hope for is the sort of cosily nagging accommodation reached by Trevor’s parents. As Trevor’s dad, David Horovitch gives the evening’s closest approximation of a convincing performance, followed closely by Sara Crowe as Trevor’s short-fused ex, Jan. The rest of the cast find themselves grappling with ninnyish stereotypes and, in the case of Jenny Seagrove as Trevor’s mum, a phony, honking accent.
 
The mechanics of Bedroom Farce work okay, but it has none of the wit, complexity or emotional range of Ayckbourn’s 1973 trilogy The Norman Conquests, which was recently triumphantly revived. American audiences might find this later work of mild historical interest. For those of us who lived through the 70s here, it’s like a particularly bad flashback.