One could be excused for thinking that the title of Alan Ayckbourn’s play “Bedroom Farce” suggests couples falling in and out of the wrong beds with the most ludicrous excuses and deliberate lies being lampooned to try and cover up for its characters indiscretions. Think again!! This play will send most lovers of British farce sound asleep and this is what appeared to have happened to the audience on the evening I saw the play. There was hardly a chuckle to be heard in the whole house, let alone the merry sound of laughter.
Malcolm and Kate are holding a party to which Trevor and Susannah are invited. However, Trevor and Susannah have far from a stable relationship and it comes as no surprise to the hosts when they arrive separately at the function. Trevor and Susannah continue their fight in their hosts’ bedroom and have to be physically separated by them. When Susannah returns to the bedroom a few minutes later see catches Trevor kissing his old flame Jan, and flees the house. Malcolm and Kate’s other guests have all left by this stage seeking to escape the oppressive atmosphere. By now it is in the early hours of the morning, but this is no reason why this potty couple should allow others to rest peacefully in their beds. Susannah seeks solace from her dotty in-laws ‘Ernest and Delia’, whilst Trevor decides he needs to explain to Jan‘s husband, Nick, why he was kissing her. Both these actions lead to more mayhem..
Trevor, played by Jason Watkins, ambles around the stage looking perplexed and indecisive whilst Rose Keegan plays Susannah as a lost, scarred and needy child. Neither character is funny and I found them both tedious. June Whitfield gives an adequate performance as Delia, as does Richard Briers who plays Ernest her husband. They are both much loved actors of the TV British comedy scene and it shows the warmth and affection that the theatre-going audience has for them that they are able to raise a few titters even in this dire production.
Suzy Atkinson and Jasper Britton as the couple ‘Kate and Malcolm’, and Samantha Spiro and Nigel Lindsey as the couple ‘Jan and Nick’, do bring some much needed humour to their characters. But then a poorly man with a bad back and an unsympathetic wife, or the long suffering wife of a husband who attempts DIY with appalling results are sure to raise a few smiles.
This is an unfunny play, which has only one saving grace, and that is the opportunity to see the adorable June Whitfield and the charming Richard Briers.
Next review by Jason Belne
Having never been a fan of farce as a genre, I went to see this with fairly low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised, at a great play and fantastic performances.
The action involves four couples and takes place in three of their bedrooms. The plot concerns the egocentric Trevor (Jason Watkins) and his neurotic wife Susannah (Rose Keegan) who are having major marital difficulties. Their antics wreck the housewarming party of their friends Malcolm and Kate, and the feuding couple continues to cause havoc throughout the night at the homes of their friends and relatives.
The comedy is well written and well executed. The cast as a whole are strong and there are no weak links, but there must be a mention of June Whitfield and Richard Briers, seasoned professionals who have impeccable comedy timing and are the lynchpins of the production.
The play moves quickly and on the night I was there the antics brought the house down. I didn't see this play twenty five years ago when it was originally produced, but it hasn't dated and I am sure it will be a huge hit.
What other critics had to say.....
The show has received mixed notices from the critics...... "One of the most unfunny plays I have ever seen" (Darren Dalglish); NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “Zestless production of Bedroom Farce does not itself manage to raise a sufficient volume or frequency of laughter.” RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, “Limp sex comedy at least helps its audience get a good night's sleep.” MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, " In spite of occasional uncertainties of tone, Loveday Ingram's revival builds up a tremendous head of comic steam." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE FOR THE TIMES liked the play saying, “I laughed a lot, and would have laughed more if some actors weren’t pushing their comic buttons so hard.” CHARLE SPENCER for DAILY TELEGRAPH also liked it saying, " Bedroom Farce is a masterclass in comedy at its finest." PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE says, "An evening of high hilarity."
External links to full reviews from newspapers...