Laugh? I Nearly Went to Miami

The slightly oddball title reflects the efforts of Elvis tragic Tom Weals to get to Miami, where he and his fiancée, Alice Martin, are to be married during a Presley convention. Delayed by fog, they come home clutching their luggage, only to find that their bags have somehow been switched at the airport and that their luggage now contains banknotes amounting to half a million dollars. Tom’s brother, Barney, who hoped to use Tom’s flat as a love-nest while he was in Miami, grabs the main chance, but he too is thwarted, although not by the bumbling efforts of a gangster and a policeman who also get involved.

As Tom, John Sivewright does convey just the sort of shambling geek for whom no aspect of the King’s career is irrelevant: he is distressed when he finds that the time of his wedding might clash with the showing of the Japanese version of GI Blues. His fiancée, Alice, probably has her feet more firmly on the ground than anyone else and draws a nice performance from Dina Berlyn. Chris Huggill brings great energy to the part of Barney, who carries most of act 1, but perhaps it is just not the right role for him. He never looks entirely comfortable and resorts to a lot of ad lib sighing which becomes an irritating mannerism. Less of that and more relaxation in his shoulders and upper arms could transform his performance.

As Muriel, the object of Barney’s lustful affections, Denise King manages to be both seductive and a harridan. Nicola King has great fun with the part of Alice’s aunt, and brings off the difficult task of acting drunk worryingly well. Don Gent is convincing as an Arthur Mullard-type gangster and wrings out the full comic potential of the character as it develops. Another safe pair of hands, Mike Bicknell, is the slightly bewildered Inspector Hendy.

You have to admire the versatility of Bournemouth Little Theatre and the sheer range of productions which have graced their tiny stage. For example, their next production after this piece of froth is David Mamet’s gritty and uncompromising American Buffalo, while their 2018-19 season, just announced, includes some really interesting and challenging plays. But as this play wears on, the first word of the title begins to look horribly like a command to the audience. In his programme notes, director Don Cherrett writes, ‘The audience must enjoy it [the play] for what it is.’ Fair enough – one should not analyse a farce like a Shakespearean tragedy, but one is allowed to expect a degree of skill and craftsmanship. For example, one of the secrets of writing a good farce is that however weird and unlikely the twists of the plot, they must be just about believable. In this play they are not, the revelation of Auntie’s secret near the end seeming particularly silly and out of place. Then the jokes should grow naturally out of the situation and the dialogue, which is often not the case here. They should also be funny – ditto.

Laugh? I Nearly Went to Miami! runs until 14 April at 7.45 each evening.