Alarms & Excursions

Monday, 14 September, 1998

Directed by Michael Blakemore, "Alarms & Excursions" is a very funny play with fresh ideas and unexpected scenes. The play is actually a set of comical sketches concerning gadgets. Some are hilarious; some are not, and some plain tedious! However, overall it is an evening of fast paced, unexpected farce that will have you begging for more as the curtain falls.

The first act starts with the sketch titled 'Alarms'. In this scene a couple are visiting their friends for dinner. While they are sat at the dining table waiting for dinner to be served they hear a 'clanking' noise. However, they do not know where the noise is coming from so they begin to search! Is it from the cooker, the phone, toaster or from something else? As they and their hosts hunt for the source of the sound, other gadgets start to go off. Then amongst all the chaos one of them cuts their finger and blood is gushing from the wound so they have to take her to casualty, or rather they try to! It all sounds like this scene could be very frustrating and nauseous, but it is not. The actors have exceptional timing and the comedy works wonderfully.

There are eight sketches in all, and I'm sure most patrons will find at least one of them funny. My favourite sketch is the last one, which is entitled ' Immobiles'. A simple case of picking someone up from the airport turns into a fiasco as certain events and mishaps occur while using the telephone answering machine. Simply brilliant fun!

There are superb performances in this well cast show. The delectable Felicity Kendal is, as always, charming, funny and very versatile and this show certainly brings out the best in her. Nicky Henson and Josie Lawrence are equally funny, but the best performance of the night is by Robert Bathhurst who in the last sketch plays a foreign friend left waiting at the airport. I loved the accent!!

The show has received great notices from most of the popular press. LYN GARDNER of THE GUARDIAN says, "The cast play with great gusto" and goes on to say "John A. Leonard's soundscape of chinks, buzzes, bells and alarms deserves an award all of its own." ROBERT GORE-LANGSTON of THE DAILY EXPRESS says, "A clever, light buffet of ideas from a master of observational comedy, the show is a welcome reminder of Frayn's extraordinary talent." MICHAEL COVENEY of THE DAILY MAIL says "They don't write them like this any more: three playlets with a cleverly delayed coda for the first and four revue sketches, all performed by a gloriously adept comedy quartet of Felicity Kendal, Nicky Henson, Josie Lawrence and Robert Bathurst." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES says "Hilarious evening of marital discord and technological disruption." NICK CURTIS of THE EVENING STANDARD did not like the show at all calling it "Alarmingly unfunny night of technophobia", adding "Alarms & Excursions" is an eight-part odyssey of embarrassment."

Lasting over 2 hours, "Alarms & Excursions" is a great new comedy and I certainly recommend it.

(Darren Dalglish)

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