A FLEA IN HER EAR
By Georges Feydeau
Adapted by Sacha Bush.
Tabard Theatre, to 23 April
Bath Road, London W 4 to 23 April 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 2pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8995 6035.
Review: William Russell 31 March.
Funny and inventive – Feydeau’s Flea Flies
At first when the cast come on to imitation French music carrying cardboard cut outs of Paris tourist spots and proceed to sing in Franglais one’s heart sinks. Is this new version by Sacha Bush directed by Alex Sutton going to be dire? Feydeau’s famous farce has a huge cast. This production has six actors playing all the parts and for a few minutes the doubling is horribly confusing.
Then the play takes wing and proves to be as funny a night out as anyone could wish with inspired comic performances from everyone on stage.
Doors are slammed, people are mistaken for other people – M Chandebise is the double of Posh, the porter at the Frisky Pussy, the sleazy hotel where Parisians go to conduct liaisons – unfaithful wives are pursued by jealous husbands, people fall down stairs, and in and out of a revolving bed.
Director Sutton and his cast and Mr Bush have played fast and loose with Feydeau and in doing so have breathed fresh life into a classic farce which tends to get staged with too much reverence and without actors who know how to play farce. Jamie Birkett with the most amazing false moustache – it is a sort of lorgnette she holds to her nose or not as the case may be – is hilarious as the doctor who, while up to no good in the hotel, has given M Chandebise’s nephew a false palate so that people can understand what he says.
In farce one makes fun of the afflicted.
Haley Catherine is a magnificent and imposing Mme Chandebise, who, to test her unfaithful husband’s loyalty, has fixed a romantic rendezvous with him under an assumed name at the Frisky Pussy; where, of course, everyone else turns up. Clark James does a terrific British yob in one of the rooms who cannot believe his luck as the other characters, male and female, end up in his clutches; Richard Watkins does a glorious double turn as the lecherous unintelligible Camille and the equally lecherous manager of the Frisky Pussy; and Rachel Dawson sizzles as the faithless wife of a jealous homicidal South American out to murder her lover.
The doubling by the entire cast is such that it slightly takes the edge off the traditional central comic role of pompous M Chandebise who just happens to be the spitting image of Posh, the hotel’s drunken porter. He seems to be seldom off stage, and how the actor copes is always what gets written about. But Dominic Brewer rises to the quick change challenge beautifully.
This really is a glorious rendering of a famous farce which can sometimes seem to be preserved in aspic and to depend for its success on one or two great farceurs in the leading roles. Here the entire cast aided by Sacha Bush’s translation – not sure skin panties feature in Feydeau let alone a lecherous Union Jack underpants wearing Brit – and inventive direction by Alex Sutton carry it to unqualified success.
The doctor: Jamie Birkett.
Victor Chandebise: Dominic Brewer.
Raymonde Chandebise: Haley Catherine.
Lucienne: Rachel Dawson.
Carlos: Clark James.
Camille: Richard Watkins.
Director & Choreographer: Alex Sutton.
Designer: Mike Leopold.
Original Music & Sound: Eamonn O’Dwyer.
Lighting Designer: Adam King.
Costume Supervisor: Hanne Talbot.