Life as we know it in Britain today may have its complications, but this pleasant revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce highlights how modern living and the sheer amount of technology available now, compared to just one generation ago, in some respects has simplified matters. It is so easy to use social media or text messaging to relay a quick message to someone, without having to ask your host if it would be possible to use the landline ‘just quickly’.
Time and again, the home lives of a given couple (there are four in the play) are temporarily inconvenienced by telephone communications between parties of another. While this all adds to the ‘farce’ in Bedroom Farce, it underlines how relatively cumbersome life back then was. The idea that one would pre-arrange a meeting time and place, and then have to wait around if the other person wasn’t there at the said time, with neither text nor voicemail stating how long they would be or how far away they are, is now almost alien to many, young and old.
This is, of course, hardly the point, and it is with slight regret, in hindsight, that this was the predominant thought in my head on leaving the theatre. Moving swiftly on, I wonder if aspects of the play were actually ahead of their time. Perhaps it is rather that audience responses change over time. Or both.
Nick (Ryan Lee), for instance, raises titters simply by wanting his wife Jan (Harriet Hahn) to do everything for him, even if, in context, he has no choice thanks to a spinal injury of some sort, leaving him largely incapacitated for the time being. Malcolm (Martin Shaw, no, not that one) goes the other way, putting together some flat-pack furniture on his own, flatly refusing offers of assistance from wife Kate (Harriet Snell).
The closest the play gets to a happy medium (for ‘happy’ read ‘reasonably contented’ rather than ‘joyful’) is Ernest (Jonathan Norris) and Delia (Anne Connell), a couple who have been together long enough such that, to paraphrase the liturgy in the Church of England’s Marriage Service, death is the only thing that could part them now. Ayckbourn has reserved the best comedy lines in the play for these two. But things aren’t so rosy for their son Trevor (Richard Brent), one of those annoying-but- compelling characters. I never did quite follow why he married Susannah (Rachel Bothamley) – as portrayed in this production, they had little chemistry between them even after attempts were made to patch things up.
The set fills the large performance space very snugly, and the scene changes are entirely seamless accordingly. The sound effects (Colin Guthrie) were excellent throughout, particularly with regard to an off-stage fight scene. This production follows Ayckbourn’s stage directions – as it should – though I couldn’t help thinking that a play written more recently might have been less subtle, subjecting the audience to what today would be considered a form of domestic violence. It does beg the question: is some of the humour in this play, to be blunt, now outdated? I don’t just mean the sort of thing that riles the easily offended, either – one or two recurring jokes outlast their welcome.
The cast projects appropriately for a studio theatre space, sparing the audience a hair dryer treatment. But this softer style leads in turn to softer audience reactions than a hammier production may have elicited, judging on my experiences of previous productions of Bedroom Farce. This play serves as a useful reminder that it’s not just restless young children who have an innate ability to keep everyone else in the house up for most of the night. And it may well be a case of ‘no sex please, we’re British’ but this is, in essence, a memorable and enjoyable production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The Tower Theatre is proud to present Bedroom Farce, Alan Ayckbourn’s classic comedy of mid-1970’s marital disharmony. Think four couples, three bedrooms, two neurotics and one ensuing hilarious night of chaos.
Trevor and Susannah, with their marriage on the rocks, invade 3 bedrooms of their family and friends over the course of an evening, spreading chaos in their wake.
Ernest and Delia are going out but will wish they’d stayed in. Malcolm and Kate are staying in but will wish they’d gone out. Nick’s having to stay in but wishes he could get out while Jan’s getting out but would probably have been wiser to stay in. And whilst Trevor and Susannah are out for the night, everyone else wishes they’d stayed at home.
Bedroom Farce debuted in the mid 70’s and has proved hugely popular with audiences since then. With a handful of revivals since that day, and a television adaptation, the Tower Theatre is excited to run six performances of this hilariously bleak view of middle-class marriage. Don’t miss your chance by booking soon.
The Tower Theatre Company Presents
By Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by John Chapman
Evenings at 7.30pm
Tuesday 7th Feb – Saturday 11th Feb
Matinée at 3.00pm
Saturday 11th February
The Tower Theatre performing at
Theatro Technis, Camden