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Caught In The Net - Review - Daily Mail - August 30th, 2003

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Eric Sykes is 78 years old, virtually blind, totally deaf and still as funny as the boil on your bottom: he hangs in there until you see the funny backside too.
In Ray Cooney’s riotously engaging sequel to his 1980s hit RUN FOR YOUR WIFE – the one about the bigamous taxi driver with wives living four minutes apart in Wimbledon and Streatham – Sykes plays an old dodderer.
His son, the pivotal lodger Stanley Gardner, played with consummate farcical fluency by Russ Abbot, slams the door on his first entrance.
Sykes, as Dad, is waiting to go to Felixstowe on his Zimmer frame. He thinks he’s already in the hotel. The next call is a Jehovah’s waitress. And he’s off to the beach. Except we are still in South London.
The taxi driver John Smith is now 43, and his son by curvaceous Barbara (Helen Gill) has hooked up with his daughter by flustered Mary (Carol Hawkins) on the internet.
Their getting together, on a simultaneous split-setting worthy of Alan Ayckbourn, is drilled into Smith’s dilemma, the uncovering of deceit and the complicated manoeuvres of Stanley.
As in the best farce – and this, believe me, is like Moliere worked over by Ben Johnson and Brian Rix – every line complicates the plot, every move puts someone in terrible peril.
The world of doors becomes a sort of madhouse where Abbot is secreting mad aunts, cupboards become exits to foreign lands and bigamy a side order in a takeaway Chinese Restaurant.
Bigamy? It’s big o’ me to even try to explain the plot.
But the acting, directed by Cooney to within an inch of its life, is also like some esoteric Japanese Noh theatre experience only slightly shorter and much funnier.
Strict, fanciful, brilliant, this is the funniest play of the year so far, without a doubt. Robert Dawes gives a supreme farce performance as the caught-out bigamist.
Radical Comedy, RC, Ray Cooney. The great man’s new farce hits the West End with the unexpected gale force of an almost defunct species: uproariously politically incorrect comedy rooted in our national obsessions of sex and propriety.


Michael Coveney

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