Theatreworld Internet Magazine Review
After nearly 60 years in the business as actor, writer, director and producer, Ray Cooney must have learnt a thing or two, and the huge success of his numerous plays is proof of his expertise – ‘Run For Your Wife’ and ‘Caught In The Net’ for example. So what are we to expect from this man? Well usually he is the master of farce, a genre which is probably as old as time itself (it was certainly enjoyed by the ancient Greeks) and derives from potentially tragic circumstances, the tragedy turning to comedy as the characters try to extricate themselves from their situation and only succeed in getting deeper and deeper into trouble.
Certainly our hero in this production (JODY CROSIER) gets into plenty of trouble. He is due to marry the boss’ daughter, a wonderfully arrogant and elegant TIFFANY GRAVES – with endless legs – but, being ordered by the boss (PAUL BENTLEY) to quit smoking, he visits a hypnotherapist and that’s when his problems really begin.
It is September 2005, (in Guildford as it happens) and under hypnosis he now regresses to a previous life in 1929 Chicago – the time of the depression, prohibition, speakeasy joints, and murder – and finds that he is the new boy in gangster Bugs Moran’s gang and making a complete balls-up of driving the getaway car. Are the lessons he is learning in this earlier life to affect his present one?
Cooney’s plots are extremely intricate and convoluted, but they flow – so fast and furious that the audience hasn’t time to think and dissect. They just go along with the fun – and enjoy! This time, and I believe for the first time, Ray has written a musical, but the action is still performed with the split second timing required in farce and it is the most enormous fun with CHIS WALKER’s melodious music…making the whole show go with a swing.
DOUGLAS HEAP’s intricately constructed set is made up of flats decorated with a mixture of newspaper cuttings, calendars and business letters, and slide swiftly, smoothly and silently into the different configurations required to change scenes – or it will when the first night hiccups have been ironed out!
JULIAN LITTMAN is Bugs Moran in the 20s and also the wicked property developer in the present day, trying to get the little old lady (a hilarious ANNE ROGERS) to sign away her little old house, which is in the way of his bright new shopping centre. Meanwhile her kindly offerings of lemonade and sandwiches constantly interrupt the building work and cause the somewhat balletic and colourful workmen to come down off the scaffolding and head for the kitchen. Perhaps not such a dotty old lady as she first appears, and she can high kick with the best of them.
The heroine? Well she is Ruby, Moran’s broad, (JO GIBB) endearing and heart-rending as she tries to escape from the sleaze and oppression of her 20’s life, but outgoing and confident as Linda in the 21st century……… and she can pack a mighty punch!
A gloriously enjoyable show, full of fun, comedy, romance and with great music, song and dance. What more could you ask for?