Coping with unexpected on-stage ‘events’ (‘disasters’ is too strong a term) is done better in some productions than others. I am reminded of a show in which an entire section of set came crashing to the floor. The show in question was partly about the dangers of perfectionism. Make of that what you will.
Now, this show, A Flea In Her Ear, carries on remarkably smoothly with a set falling apart in places. In particular, there’s something special about a farce in which the centre doors stop closing properly. I don’t know if the various little things that went awry in the second half did so deliberately to aid the hilarity; if scripted, it was extremely convincing. I remain undecided as to the spontaneity of it all as it started to happen a little too often to be entirely coincidental.
As for the style of humour, I found it decisively funny throughout, though I imagine some people will find it rather silly and pointless – anyone looking for something deep and meaningful will very likely be sorely disappointed. That said, there may be some thoughts about trust, interdependence and communication (and, of course, timing) that shine through. These are not, however, I hasten to add, the main things that most will take away with them.
I have two reservations. The first is with regards to a definitively outmoded parody of the French, of which I am reluctant to elaborate further for fear of giving too much away. The second is with Camille (Richard Watkins) and a speech impediment. Surely we are a little more developed these days than to laugh at someone who can’t quite form their words as they should.
With so many characters played by a company of six, everyone has been deemed good enough to have been cast at least twice, though the programme is guarded, listing principal roles only, then providing an almost throwaway addition, “All other parts are played by the cast.” Raymonde (Haley Catherine) is suitably comical and exaggerated in expression, as is Carlos (Clark James). But neither are ever so hammed up as to outlast their welcome. Dominic Brewer as Victor, a director of the Boston Life Insurance Company, doubles up as Poche, a hotel porter in an exhilarating if slightly exhausting to watch performance. From the mix-up of these two characters derives a lot more confusion, hilarity and utter bewilderment.
The scene changes, of which there are not very many, are amongst the most imaginative I’ve come across over the years, with effective use of strobe lighting. The stage directions in Georges Feydeau’s original La Puce à L’oreille can sometimes be very detailed; and necessarily so for the various elements of the show to work properly. I did wonder how a smaller space like the Tabard Theatre would manage to incorporate, for instance, a required revolve. I will only say that it does manage to do so, successfully, although perhaps inevitably the staging and direction in the second act (of three) sometimes looks a bit chaotic. But it’s a farce anyway, so looking at it from another angle, an overloaded set only adds to the intentionally muddled narrative.
It’s solidly enjoyable, even if irreverent. If it’s highbrow culture you’re after, keep looking. If you’re game for a barrel of laughs over a couple of hours, here’s a play to have on your radar. This is amusing and entertaining theatre and, goodness me, there can never be enough of that in today’s big bad world.
Review by Chris Omaweng
SLR Productions presents A FLEA IN HER EAR
by Georges Feydeau
Adapted by Sacha Bush
Directed by Alex Sutton
Designed by Mike Leopold
Original music and sound by Eamonn O’Dwyer
Lighting by Adam King
Starring Jamie Birkett, Dominic Brewer, Haley Catherine,
Rachel Dawson, Clark James and Richard Watkins.
From the undisputed master of French farce, Georges Feydeau’s hysterical comedy of errors plays a limited 4 week run at the Tabard Theatre.
Widely regarded as one of the funniest farces ever written, A Flea in Her Ear teems with suspicious spouses, hotel liaisons, crossed wires and physical comedy galore.
To test her husband’s fidelity, Raymonde Chandebise sends a letter from a ‘secret’ admirer suggesting a romantic rendezvous at the local ‘dubious morals’ hotel. What follows is a string of outrageously frenzied mixups as mistaken identities spiral out of control.
Georges Feydeau was a French playwright of the era known as the Belle Époque. He wrote over sixty plays with A Flea in Her Ear written in 1907 his most famous. His plays are still performed throughout the world and are considered a precursor to surrealist and absurdist theatre.
In a fresh new adaptation by Sacha Bush, this production imaginatively combines music and physical theatre with a contemporary ‘joie de vivre’ that will delight both fans of Feydeau and new audiences.
A Flea in Her Ear
29 March – 23 April 2016
Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm
Sunday Matinee 2pm