DTR - Review of Bedroom Farce

Bedroom Farce

Thu 6th – Sat 8th March 2014

reviews

Louise Message

at 23:41 on 6th Mar 2014

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Let’s talk about S-E-X. Or, let’s skirmish awkwardly around the topic for ninety minutes, until our taboos are forced most unceremoniously out into the open. This is exactly what happens to the four couples in ACT’s delightfully unsettling production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce.

Upon first glimpse of Tom Murton’s set, it is clear that a real sense of naturalism has been striven for. The suitably messy beds, and authentic –looking, strategically-placed 1970s paraphernalia all lend a lived-in effect to the stage. The decision to raise the bed of the aging couple was an effective one, lifting them as ironic models of a marriage that is sustained out of habit as opposed to genuine affection. The cramped set did not stifle the performance of the actors in the slightest. Instead, it added a sense of claustrophobia that chimed perfectly with the four declining relationships on-stage.

The first of these couples, the seemingly perpetually married Ernest (Will Hockedy) and Delia (Idgie Beau), was played wonderfully by both actors. Will Hockedy, resplendent in a faux-silk dressing-gown whilst bearing pilchards on toast pitched his performance perfectly whether he was bypassing his wife to talk about the damp in their bedroom, or reading wistfully from Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Idgie Beau was equally compelling as the matter-of-fact matriarch. Her comedic talents shone especially in the muddled telephone conversation with her errant son, Trevor.

On the topic of Trevor, Ben Cushion was well-cast as the at once brooding, flippant and at times, curiously philosophical, troublemaker. His delivery of some of Acykbourn’s more subtle comedic lines was certainly impressive. As was Anna Feroldi as indignant Jan. On occasion her dialogue was slightly stilted, though this certainly added to the naturalism of the production at times. If anything, Feroldi’s performance is to be remembered for Jan’s overwhelming vulnerability she when confronted by her old squeeze, Trevor.

However, it would perhaps be fair to claim that both were outshone slightly by Jess Hof’s Susannah, who did an excellent job in creating discomfort amongst the other characters in her impassioned sexual rebellion. Hof flitted between states of melodrama and true longing easefully, drawing laughs from the audience without descending into farce. Her final scene was particularly touching.

The standout performance of the night was delivered by Izzie Price, who created a subtle and multi-layered portrait of the seemingly-happy Katie, who is slowly revealed to be unfulfilled, both emotionally and sexually. Both Malcolm (Rob Collins) and Nick (Nicholas McQueen) showcased their skills in physical comedy, which helped lighten moments of dramatic intensity.

The play’s true strength lies in its ability to straddle the natural and the theatrical. The use of lighting was particularly commendable in this respect. It was perfectly synchronised with the action, spotlighting each of the couples in turn, subjecting them to even greater scrutiny. While the directorial decision to leave characters on the stage stationary for extended periods of time was an astute one, as it subtly reminds us of the interconnectedness of Ayckbourn’s work – and the havoc these connections wreak.

Bedroom Farce was always going to be a production that required the full attention of the audience; but this practice certainly reaped rewards for this reviewer. ACT’s production managed to create wonderfully absurd scenarios without scraping the bottom of the ‘absurd barrel’, so to speak. Instead, we are presented with a play that is at once witty, tragic, and most importantly, leaves us facing unnerving truths.

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