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AN ABSOLUTE TURKEY
DIRECTOR: Christopher Weare
CAST: Jessica McCarthy, Brendan Murray, Matthew Alves et al
VENUE: The Theatre on the Bay
Of all theatrical genres, farce is arguably the most demanding; its relentless mobility and contrived mindlessness have to be tightly controlled if audience attention is to be held for a couple of hours.
In this impeccably paced production, veteran director Christopher Weare meets these challenges with aplomb, as does the large ensemble of thespians under his guidance.
From the start, Weare’s ingenuity in handling the conventions of farce à la Feydeau is apparent.
Instead of multiple doors to serve the actors’ continuous entrances and exits, single light bulbs are suspended strategically around the stage and light up to signal ingress or egress, accompanied by emphatic percussion from a musician lurking at the side.
With a minimum of props, a suitably Gallic aura is created by slides of well-known French artworks projected on the backdrop: an array of Impressionists, some Picasso, and for good measure works by artists of the 18th and 20th centuries. Not surprisingly, the images become increasingly suggestive and explicit as the action evolves.
Changes of scene are indicated simply and effectively, by the appropriate address chalked on the sloping stage. Costumes are chosen to evoke the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period of sexual liberation throughout the Western world with la belle France in the vanguard (a clever update to mirror the reputation enjoyed by Paris for licentious behaviour in the 1890s when Feydeau penned this play).
Like the characters themselves, the French accent adopted by the cast smacks of caricature, strongly reminiscent of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau (who even appears, complete with moustache and raincoat, in Act Two, as the local detective). Throwaway lines abound, like the reassurance Pontagnac offers Lucienne, the object of his pursuit: “I promise you, Madame, my intentions are not pure, but they are not ’ostile either.” That pretty much sums up the moral climate of this farce as raging libidos create an intricate network of liaisons…
The 14-strong ensemble are perfectly cast, and their collective stamina could match that of a well- trained rugby team. Their performance, with Feydeau’s witty script and Weare’s direction, prove a winning formula to entertain the most jaded theatregoer.