LOVE’S A LUXURY
by Guy Paxton and Edward V Hoile.
Tour to 2 October 2010.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 September at Gordon Craig Theatre Stevenage.
Traditional English farce from an innocent age.
If love’s a luxury, what are the necessities? In this jointly-authored 1955 farce, they are the demands of convention: fidelity within marriage, chastity outside it. Alongside, of course, the necessities of human existence: desire, pursuit and longing. All in a country cottage where theatrical producer Charles Pentwick is attempting to save his marriage.
He’s brought actor-friend Bobby Bentley with him, for no reason other from plot requirements. The famous Bentley soon attracts the young maid, then steps into her mother’s shoes – not to mention clothes and wig. Meanwhile love blossoms, a sort of nearby scoutmaster keeps trotting in, becoming embroiled in a trumped-up criminal investigation. Pentwick keeps banging his head painfully on a lintel, there are major operations with watering devices to keep someone’s shirt wet and an attractive woman sheds some clothes.
Though this all claims to be set in the West Country (something not all local accents bear-out) the English seaside and its postcards don’t seem far away. Not that this is mere sauce; there’s meat on the farcical bones, but the underlying mix of propriety and gleeful putting a toe over the limits are there. And added to these, the sense of desperation as best-laid plans are disrupted by the unexpected, and solutions lead only to further complications.
There are quite a few successful sight-gags in Ian Dickens’ production (Dickens is a director-manager rather than actor-manager in the old style, whose popular repertoire of comedies and thrillers provides entertainment for a range of places with little other theatre, as well as plugging a gap in places like Colchester and Mold where resident companies have a different repertoire profile).
There’s decent acting throughout, though the farcical mechanism lacks a sufficiently precise balance of stylisation and energy to make maximum impact. The result is something pleasantly amusing rather than uproariously, inevitably hilarious. Occasionally cast members signal things are really quite funny, whereas every muscle and intonation should suggest utter seriousness. Only Katie Evans, as the mother who comes home to find herself treated as someone else, fully achieves this, her puzzled consternation at a seemingly insane world being delightful.
Molly: Melissa Clements.
Charles Pentwick: Giles Watling.
Bobby Bentley: David Callistter.
Mr Mole: Richard Walsh.
Frtzy Villiers: Jennifer Biddall.
Dick Pentwick: Ben Freeman.
Mrs Cgarles Pentwick: Nicola Weeks.
Mrs Harris: Katie Evans.
Jollup: Kristian Jenkins.
Director: Ian Dickens.
Lighting: David North.