THE FALL GUY
by Georges Feydeau
Translated Braham Murray & Robert Cogo-Fawcett
Royal Exchange Theatre. To 11 August 2001
Runs 2 hours 30 minutes. Two intervals
TICKETS 0161 833 9833
Review Timothy Ramsden 18 July
Updated Feydeau offers a measure of laughs.
Following a farce of the ’60s permissive society (Joe Orton’s Loot) the Exchange offers further summer fun in a Paris updated half a century from Feydeau’s1900s. His outer acts show the walls of conventional behaviour bursting and being rebuilt round a central act of sexual mayhem. Everyone loves someone else’s wife, or is revenging themselves on a partner whose fidelity is suspect.Those outer acts are set in the family homes of Vatelin and his good friend Pontagnac, a friendship set to survive Pontagnac’s designs on Mrs Vatalin. Not too surprising: Ashley Martin-Davis’s designs give Vatalin’s act one home a plush Empire elegance, while act three places us among the stark patterns and black polo-neck sweaters of the avant-garde Pontagnac residence. A friendship between such diverse worlds could survive anything.
Even a night in the bleak hotel room of act two, where the various characters (plus a few up from the country) dash in and out, just leaving time for the nearest thing to genuine feeling, shown by the hotel tart for the boil-afflicted pageboy.
David Fielder’s Vatelin and Chook Sibtain’s Pontagnac play beautifully off each other, Fielder’s set-in-his-ways Vatelin clearly lacking Le Gout d’Autres, Sibtain’s smooth seducer meeting every near-calamity of the plot with a smile and excuse.
Fine work too from John Southworth as Pontagnac’s old servant, protecting his young master whatever. Despite resolute work from John Ringham and Amanda Boxer as the old country buffers accidentally caught up in this metropolitan mayhem and a nice ease in Lexi Strauss’s Armandine, a working girl form Coronation Street, Paris, the rest of Matthew Lloyd’s cast have a heaviness that puts lumps in the farcical souffle – justifiable only in the case of Katy Carmichael’s determined Germanic sexual predator, Gudrun Soldignac. How those French used to stereotype their neighbours.
Lucienne Vatelin: Rachel Pickup
Crepin Vatelin: David Fielder
Edmond Pontagnac: Chook Sibtain
Mme Pontagnac/Hotel Guest: Deborah Cornelius
Ernest Redillon: Ben Porter
Gudrun Soldignac: Katy Carmichael
Narcissus Soldignac/Hotel Guest: Morgan George
Pinchard: John Ringham
Mme Pinchard: Amanda Boxer
Armandine/Hotel Guest: Lexi Strauss
Hotel Manager/1st Superintendent/Gerome: John Southworth
Jean/Victor/2nd Superintendent: Gareth Abel
Clara/Police Constable: Adele Parry
Director: Matthew Lloyd
Designer: Ashley Martin-Davis
Lighting: Jason Taylor
Sound: Scott Myers
Fight director: Malcolm Ranson