FLAT OUT by Jennifer Selway. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London. 4****. William Russell

By Jennifer Selway
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, London N6 4BD to 30 June 2019.
Tues- Sat 7.30pm. Sun 4pm.
Runs 2hr 10 mins. One interval/
TICKETS: 020 8340 3488.

Review: William Russell 6 June.
A hilarious farce

They are dreadfully unfashionable these days, but Jennifer Selway has taken the classic ingredients of farce – adultery, cross dressing, lost trousers and venal servants – given them a stir and delivered a really road worthy piece. The great Ray Cooney, master of the genre, one of whose plays ran for nine years in the West End would probably bestow his blessing on it. He might suggest a tweak or two here or there, and one or two are needed – Ms Selway has used the happiness pun joke twice as a language misunderstanding when used by a foreign character, and really that one has had its day. But otherwise things go with a bang in John Plews’ energetic production and his first rate cast deliver all that is required of them. The play might die the death in today’s West End, sated as it is with second rate musicals, but if it does not attract the Highgate audience in droves for a really good old fashioned night out then there is no justice in the world. No criticism of the present cast, but as a touring production with a couple of well known names in central roles and it ought to do the same round the regions.
In a mansion block in South Kensington the occupants are facing renovations and the prospect of being bought out by new, ruthless owners. Angela (Jennifer Matter) has borrowed it for the day to have a tryst with barrister Gyles Fletcher (Richard Earl) from her friend Claire Carmichael (Cathy Walker). Claire has arranged to sub let it to Sandrine (Grace McInerny) but forgotten to tell the cleaning lady Marina (Hollie Taylor) an illiegal immigrant from Russia. Add her husband Stuart (Hugh Carmichael), who has not told her he has lost his job, and also happens to cross dress, Tim (Jake Forrester), a loathsome little nerd from the developers who is trying to get the tenants out, and Phil from the flat below (Tom Pepper), whose late partner was the tenant – he wants to get the money for agreeing to go – and the possibilities are endless. Apart from anything else Sandrine is not who we think she is and Marina the Cleaner has secrets of her own as well as knowing everyone else’s secrets.
Sights to treasure include Angela in her naturally black lace underwear and a magnificent red dress, which Hugh eventually gets to wear pretending to be the missing Dorita, while the final joke involving just what to do about malevolent Tim is a delight. The added ingredient? The place is infested with mice – apart from the odd human rat.
Emily Bestow has come up with a nice old fashioned mansion block set with four doors and a bay window with scaffolding outside which also serves as an entrance and exit, mulitiple doors and exits are vital in the world of farce, and there you have it. The punch line possibly takes a moment or two too long to arrive, but when it does it is a killer. This is one of those jolly, undemanding nights out at the theatre which leaves one pretty well laughed out.

Claire Carmichael: Cathy Walker.
Hugh Carmichael: Stuart Simons
Angela Crabbe: Jennifer Matter.
Giles Fletcher: Richard Earl.
Sandrine Fletcher: Grace McInerny.
Jake Mitchell: Tim Forrester.
Phil Gibson: Tom Pepper.
Marina the Cleaner: Hollie Taylor.
Director: John Plews.
Set & Costume Design: Emily Bestow.
Lighting Design: Sarah L McColgan.
Sound Design: Joshua Robins.
Photography: Darren Bell

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