first night

Bedroom Farce

Ellie Gauge enjoys an evening of dysfunctional domesticity with ACT's production of 'Bedroom Farce'

 Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce is a classic. With such a well-loved play, ACT have set themselves the perhaps difficult challenge of ensuring their performance is as well received by the modern Durham audience as an Ayckbourn play should be. And, they have done admirably.

I must first commend the brilliant set. To fit three full size double beds (and their accompanying bedside tables) on the Assembly Rooms stage is some feat. The logistical success of this is no doubt down to the wonderful Tom Murton. Matilda Hunter has also excelled herself and the attention to detail in the props and ‘interior decorating’ is splendid. Given the nature of the script whereby we are constantly cutting between the different bedrooms, the transitions needed to be slick. This was mostly done well thanks to the impressively quick lighting changes, which were simple but effective. I would argue that given this is (as the title dictates) a ’farce’ these changes could be even swifter with entrances cutting over exits and this in turn may prove to further the comical aspect. 

On a whole the cast were impressive. They are blessed with a well written, witty script and their delivery of the lines ensured the jokes were captured and the audience were chuckling throughout. Nicholas McQueen in particular is deserving of praise for his wonderful comic timing, especially in the very short non-dialogue scenes where we see the crippled Nick whining and groaning. 

The play follows four uniquely dysfunctional couples. The beauty of a Ayckbourn play is that there is a clever balance between ridiculousness and sincerity. In order to achieve an outstanding level of performance, it is important that this sincerity is recognised and that the relationships between the couples are truly believable. Unfortunately I didn’t feel that this was consistently achieved. Having said that, I honestly believe all the actors are more than capable of doing so and by the end of the run they will inevitably be more comfortable with each other and more secure in their performances which will enable character relationship and consistency to really shine through. 

Izzie Price and Rob Collins are perhaps the exception in this slight criticism, and they seem to have already mastered the believability in both their individual performances and their onstage relationship as the young Kate & Malcolm. Price brought a wonderful energy to the stage and should be praised for always bringing up the pace when things began to drag. Collins gave the most naturalistic performance and for me, seemed to be the only one to really get to grips with the 70s setting - perhaps it was his wonderful corduroy trousers and turtle neck shirt that made his character come to life. Although I appreciated his naturalism, he should be careful that his lines are not lost in tendencies to rush and mumble. This is a minor issue that can easily be fixed and overall this was certainly a ‘triumphant’ and not ‘calamitous’ return to the stage. Together the pair were splendid and endearingly cheeky most notably in their first few scenes. 

Will Hockedy must also be commended for his fantastic portrayal of Earnest - playing at least 50 years your senior is not an easy task but Hockedy completely nails it. He managed to do so without falling into the trap of becoming a ridiculous caricature and for that I admire him. He was beautifully jittery in all aspects of his performance and was a joy to watch. Idgie Beau, as Earnest’s long-standing wife was also a delight to watch. Her attention to detail in the physical characterisation of Delia was beautiful. This was not always matched by her vocal characterisation, which at times reminded me she was 21 and not 60. Although, her ‘phone’ voice was hilariously spot on. 

There were moments of this production that were nearly perfect, and I have no doubt the remaining performances will go from strength to strength. Considering this was opening night, the entire cast gave performances they should be proud of, and I hope directing duo Leo Mylonadis and Dom Williams are beaming. On the grand scale of Durham productions this is a very good show, and one that I would say is definitely worth watching for some light relief during summative season.

7 March 2014

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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