by Marc Camoletti translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans..
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 28 March 2015.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 12, 21 March 2.30pm.
Audio-described 21 March 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 25 March.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 March.
Long-runner sets-off again with style ad energy.
Ah, British theatre in the sixties – Osborne, Wesker, Arden. And later, Bond, Hampton, Nichols. What a golden age.
Yet the West End’s long-runners (alongside The Mousetrap, then a mere teenager from the early fifties) were this French farce by Marc Camoletti, 1962-1969, and Terence Frisby’s even-longer running There’s a Girl in My Soup.
Whatever Boeing! now seems, it isn’t modern. Underneath the gloss, anyway. It’s easy to see that in the emerging jet era, a play about three female flight attendants from different national airlines, in their brightly coloured uniforms, looked up to the minute. But underneath are familiar stereotypes.
They weren’t, of course, called flight attendants (political correctness subsequently introduced the term) but air-hostesses. Young, energetic and attractive, their uniforms designed sleek as the planes where they worked, showing body-shape and necessarily elegant legs.
Parisian Bernard promises marriage to all three, relying on flight schedules to keep them apart. Until they don’t. And Bernard’s old chum from the provinces arrives, hoping to overcome his sexual shyness. Eventually he kisses one or two of the women.
Matt Devitt’s counter-intuitive production determinedly doesn’t push the French connection. The flighty ladies’ American, Dutch and German voices are all there, but Bertha, Bernard’s French Maid, is British regional, Robert clearly Scottish. In front of video images between scenes, designer Norman Coates economically suggests a smart flat, which could be in any city. If he’s French at all, Fred Broom’s determined Bernard, slouching and speaking with casual softness, is less Yves Montand than Gérard Depardieu.
Accommodatingly smooth, he seems less at home in his own apartment than Tim Cornish’s fizzing Robert, whose sexual energy provokes lithe acrobatics. Camoletti makes the international threesome assertive without suggesting they want anything other than a man and marriage. His farce has, though, the plot ingenuity to show how three into two can, sort-of, go.
All perform well, though the plot’s ingenuity doesn’t have the inevitability that would conceal the sense of effort. Happily, though she can be vocally unclear at times, Megan Leigh Mason’s Bertha is a comic jewel, touching first-class in a not quite top-flight farce.
Gloria: Ellie Rose Boswell.
Bernard: Fred Broom.
Robert: Tim Cornish.
Gretchen: Joanna Hickman.
Gabriella: Sarah Mahony.
Bertha: Megan Leigh Mason.
Director Matt Devitt.
Designer: Norman Coates.
Lighting: Dan Crews.