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UK Tour of Bang Bang! at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford | Review

Bang Bang! Northcott Theatre - Credit Paul Blakemore
Bang Bang! Northcott Theatre – Credit Paul Blakemore

Bang Bang! is, perhaps, rather surprisingly, John Cleese’s stage-writing debut. It is an adaption of Georges Feydeau’s farce “Monsieur Chasse”, written in French in 1892. John Cleese and Director Daniel Buckroyd’s version keeps the story in the time and place that it was originally set: Paris in the mid-1890s but, thankfully, it is performed in English.

David Shields’ set is brilliantly designed, beginning at Monsieur and Madame Duchotel’s (Tony Gardner and Tessa Peake-Jones) Parisian home and switching to Madame Latour’s (Wendi Peters) chambers. The set cleverly swivels around and the Duchotel’s saloon door becomes the door to the balcony, the door to Duchotel’s dressing room becomes a wardrobe and a bookcase becomes the door to a second room in the chambers; plenty of entrance and exit opportunities here. While the scenery is being changed after the first act by the male cast members dressed in brown coats, Mme. Latour relates the story of her life in song, with the scene-shifters joining in and moving the furniture in time with the music.

This production must be hard work for the excellent cast, as the action is fast-paced and often requires precision timing. For the audience, there is no such pressure; the story is a typical farce involving extramarital affairs, slamming doors and plenty of trouser dropping. The double standards of France in the 1890s are still rich pickings for comedy. Mme. Latour has just evicted a tenant for her disreputable behaviour, having multiple assignations with scruffy young men for cash. Her chambers are for the assignations of respectable married men and women, in one case they are actually married to each other.

It is surprising that this play is so little known, it is comedy gold in the hands of this fantastic cast. Tessa Peake-Jones, Tony Gardner, and Richard Earl (Dr. Moricet) give a master class in farce. Wendi Peters’ facial expressions alone reduced me to tears of laughter. There are plenty of “asides” and interactions with the audience. Cast and audience all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. I am so pleased that I got to see this production, I highly recommend it.

5 Star Rating

Review by Sally Knipe

Exeter Northcott Theatre and Dermot McLaughlin Productions announce the Premiere UK Tour of Bang Bang! A new farce from John Cleese, as he makes his stage writing debut with a hilarious new adaptation of this classic comedy. A delicious blend of French Farce and Fawlty Towers. Bang Bang! opens at Exeter Northcott Theatre on 6th February and tours until May. Cast will include Tessa Peake-Jones, Tony Gardner and Wendi Peters.

When Leontine, a respectable society lady, discovers that she’s been hoodwinked by her husband, Duchotel, who’s always pretending to go hunting but really chasing after other ‘prey’, she vows to take revenge on the philanderer! But while Duchotel’s away, his lifelong friend comes calling – and he’s on the hunt too.

Will Leontine get caught in his sights, or instead set a trap of her own?
Secrets unravel as the devilish Duchotel finds himself snared in a door-slamming, trouser-dropping, balcony-climbing night of chaos set amidst the stylish apartments of Paris.

BANG BANG! A NEW FARCE BY JOHN CLEESE* UK Tour
Based on ‘Monsieur Chasse’ by Georges Feydeau
With Tessa Peake-Jones, Tony Gardner and Wendi Peters

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