This crowd-pleaser by Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot played for over 6000 performances in its heyday of the early 1970s: a less pc world in which ‘Carry on’ and Benny Hill styles of titillation were far more acceptable and deemed humourful. Today, its rather weak script, based on delivery of ever-increasing amounts of pornography, culminating in two young ladies, does not quite make sense when the whole play could have been completed in the first ten minutes if the said horrific post cards had been stored in the study, in a cupboard or under the sink and no-one would been the wiser.
But this is farce and whilst the first half is much about introduction of plot and characters, the second half is rocket-fuelled with various comings and goings, lies and more convoluted lies until the whole cast finally makes it on stage for the denouement.
Given the setting of the play, the cast does an amazingly energetic job in producing some split-second timing. A robust set copes well with all the inevitable door slammings, but credit has to be given to sound, staged direction/choreography, props and lighting. The way the tiny space of that stage is put to full use in this play is admirable and director Barry Kitchen should be proud of his cast, who simply do not put a foot wrong. Dialogue is crisp and well delivered in a hall where acoustics are not brilliant.
James Gould and Kate Robbins make a welcome return to the Bishopstoke stage as the husband and wife team, both of them staying just the right side of maniacal. The relationship with a fully on-form and brilliant Colin Carter as the put-upon Brian is pure joy. The play has been well rehearsed and choreographed falls and slamming kitchen hatches are all coped with beautifully by this trio, the parrot scene being particularly well received by the audience. You can actually feel the tiredness of these three towards the end, such is their energy throughout and relief at the ending.
Maggie Allington is suitably horrendous as the mother-in-law from hell, but shows her lighter side as her assignations with a solid Drew Craddock as Bromhead reflect a slightly more reserved love affair against the glut of salaciousness that is being kept from them. Tim Ponsford is also on top form as the nerdy Mr Needham, his scenes with the pert and lively ladies of Abi Jeffery and Olivia Clarke being expertly done. Pete Burton adds gravitas in his role as Superintendent Paul Kevin Bowers, an adept delivery man.
It is a team effort, however, each very much relying on all the others to be word- and movement-perfect, each entrance and exit timed incredibly well with the right prop in the right place at the right time. It all makes for a jolly romp.
There are further performances on 29 and 30 September, both starting at 7.30.