Aptly entitled Mixed Relations on its first production in 1942, this witty and surprisingly endearing farce from the little-known writing partnership of Guy Paxton and Edward V. Hoile is perfect spring fare for the Orange Tree: as light and effervescent as the genre can offer.
Although normally not a fan of farce, the excellent acting and deft comic timing of this particular ensemble quickly overturn the usual reservations and it proves uncharacteristically enjoyable. Much of this is certainly to the credit of the cast who, under the brisk direction of Sam Walters, are all ideal in their respective roles, but clearly the astute eye of casting director Sarah Hughes (here in connection with the Stephen Joseph theatre) has been of considerable assistance. Particularly effective are Roger Sloman's bemused camp-master Mole, Roisin Rae's flirtatious Fritzy, Claudia Elmhirst's Molly the maid and Jason Baughan's drag role as the housekeeper Mrs Harris with Philip York equally impressive as the flustered Pentwick. Christine Wall's evocative Fifties costumes enhance the sense of period superbly.
Charles Pentwick arrives at his West County cottage in a state of great agitation. His jealous young wife has abruptly left after hearing rumours about his alleged (and unfounded) infidelity, leaving him to seek shelter with his friend, actor Bobby Bentley who's joined him in his rural retreat. But it's not long before the house party of two expands as Pentwick's wife, son and friend soon descend on Cranberry Cottage. Intent upon proving his innocence to his wife, Pentwick is aghast to discover himself suddenly embroiled in social pandemonium of epic proportions as his every effort to clarify events only digs him deeper into the mire of marital mayhem. It's classic farce territory. With the anticipated country sojourn swiftly turning into a nightmare of mistaken identity, amorous confusion and detective duplicity, events move to a hilarious crescendo before neatly resolving in the final scene.
Frivolous, funny and deceptively charming, this is farce at its best.