BOEING-BOEING – Manor Pavilion Theatre, Sidmouth


3 July 2023

4****

Written in 1960, Marc Camoletti’s play ‘Boeing-Boeing’ became an enormous hit when it premiered on the London stage in 1962, running for seven years. It is the epitome of the farce genre. The simple plot contains elements which some might find offensive these days; Bernard has three fiancées – all work on different airlines – he deviously keeps them all ignorant of each other by arranging their visits to his Paris apartment very precisely. When an old school friend, Robert, turns up out of the blue, confusion reigns as Bernard’s ‘timetable’ goes into meltdown and chaos ensues.

Farce requires a number of factors; speed, precision, confusion, coincidence and lots of doors. Somehow the small stage at the Manor Pavilion houses a pair of double doors with 6 other single doors; in his Mondrian-inspired set, Andrew Beckett creates plenty of room for the action to play out; it is an utterly pleasing design.

Thomas Willshire plays Bernard, all swagger and self-confidence at the start, visibly wilting throughout as his plans go awry and the fiancées start turning up at the same time. It is a wonderful performance. As friend Robert, who becomes embroiled in the deceptions, Mark Laverty uses his physical acting skills to the full; expertly squeezing out every possible laugh. The two friends lapse into schoolboy behaviour at times which is rib-ticklingly funny. Sarah Dearlove’s Bertha, Bernard’s maid, is spot on; grumpily tolerating her boss’s shenanigans, she nails the sharp retort and the caustic aside.

The three women in Bernard’s life; decked out in the colours of the airline they work for, are brilliantly played. As the brash, sexual Gloria, the American, Rosie Edwards is wonderfully seductive and uses her limbs to splendid comic effect. Julia Main gives Gabriella a full dose of Italian passion with cracking mood swings. Polly Smith instils Gretchen (from Germany) with some sublime heel clicking, no-nonsense comedy; you don’t want to mess with her. Three incredibly strong performances.

You need an ensemble working in perfect harmony for farce to suceed and that is exactly what you get here.

Director Robert McWhir builds the action gradually, but effectively and doesn’t let the pace drop for one moment; drawing out every ounce of comedy from the ludicrous plot.

It is worth bearing in mind that at the Summer Play Festival, the rehearsal time for the productions is just five days. To achieve this level of performance in that time is quite remarkable. If you haven’t seen ‘Boeing-Boeing’ before, get your boarding pass as soon as you can and get on the flight!

The play runs until 8 July and tickets are available at www.manorpavilion.com. Next week is the start of an Alan Ayckbourn trilogy; the first of which is ‘Game Plan’ from 10-15 July.


CAST & CREATIVES

BERNARD – THOMAS WILLSHIRE

BERTHA – SARAH DEARLOVE

ROBERT – MARK LAVERTY

GLORIA – ROSIE EDWARDS

GABRIELLA – JULIA MAIN

GRETCHEN – POLLY SMITH


WRITER – MARC CAMOLETTI – TRANSLATION BY BEVERLEY CROSS & FRANCIS EVANS

DIRECTOR – ROBERT MCWHIR

DESIGN – ANDREW BECKETT

LIGHTING & SOUND OPERATION & DESIGN – STAGE TECH SERVICES

COSTUME SUPERVISOR – JAN HUCKLE & PHOEBE FLEETHAM

SET BUILDERS – HENRY HAYWARD, JAMES PRENDERGAST

SET ASSISTANT – DOMINIC MCCHESNEY

DEPUTY STAGE MANAGER – DANIEL SAINT

PHOTO CREDIT – ANDREW BECKETT

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR – PAUL TAYLOR-MILLS

SEASON ASSOCIATE PRODUCER – ANDREW BECKETT

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