by Ben Travers.
Theatre By The Lake Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 5 November 2014.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 744411
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 August,
There’s laughs in the old ones yet.
Theatre By The Lake has made itself a home for the English farce tradition. Ben Travers’ Rookery Nook might not have, as script or production, the sublime inevitability of last year’s offering, Philip King’s See How They Run, but it is some way ahead as a farce from the 2012 revival Dry Rot.
If Aldwych leaves Whitehall way behind, it’s because Ben Travers was a master of farcical contrivance for the Aldwych Theatre between the wars (the post-World War II farces at the Whitehall – now the Trafalgar Studios – were penned by various writers), writing for a core acting company as set in their character types as the old Italian commedia dell’arte.
Aldwych audiences could predict the types they’d meet merely by a glance at the programme. Ralph Lynn, Tom Walls, Robertson Hare, Mary Brough and others perfected their style in recurrent versions of the same type; only the names and plots were varied.
Keswick Director Ian Forrest was near-flawless in the only too self-descriptive Dry Rot and he’s as adept with the cast here. The types are soon established by the Keswick company who then maintain the necessary pace (speedy but never hurried) and clarity (the more laughter-inducing for the audience, the more serious things must seem for the characters).
Peter Rylands is accomplished in three cameos, including a Prussian who belongs in the post-World War I stereotype of thick-headed German militancy and a brief appearance in drag. Women otherwise are either older termagants or sporting young gals of unimpeachable moral rectitude. Even young Rhoda who sets events going by being attractive and, in a genre that would go on to see men dropping trousers down the years, finds herself shut-out of her home in her pyjamas.
That’s when she arrives at the Nook, temporary home to the Popkisses and presided over by Laura Cox’s termagant housekeeper Mrs Leverett. The cast catch the variously nervous (straw-hat chewing Harold Twine) and suave (Matthew Vaughan’s Gerald) men while Katie Norris is lively and innocent as plot-forwarding charity-collector Poppy and Rebecca Todd refreshingly reasonable and uncensorious when eventually appearing as the supposedly-wronged wife.
Rhoda Marley: Cate Cammack.
Mrs Leverett: Laura Cox.
Harold Twine: Chris Hannon.
GertrudeTwine: Katie Hayes,
Clive Popkiss: Bryn Holding.
Poppy Dickey: Katie Norris.
Putz/Admiral Juddy/Mrs Possett: Peter Rylands.
Clara Popkiss: Rebecca Todd.
Gerald Popkiss: Matthew Vaughan.
Director: Ian Forrest.
Designer/ Costume: Martin Johns.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Andrew J Lindsay.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Peter Macqueen.