AYCKBOURN is the British playwright credited with bringing darkness to light comedy, and there are certainly laugh-out-loud moments of black humour in this production, directed by Darrel Poulos.
The farce takes place in the lounge of a hotel suite where, in the opening scene, a prostitute, Poopay, decked in leather and carrying a handbag stuffed with torture implements, arrives to “service” an elderly and dying old man, Reece.
She doesn’t realise, though, that the only service required on this occasion is to counter-sign a confession of all the sins he’s committed, including bumping off both his wives via a hitman, who also happens to be his business partner. It’s not long before the dastardly business partner, Julian, gets wind of the situation and tries to silence poor old Poopay for good.
It’s at this point that the fun and games begin. Poopay stumbles into a cupboard which turns out to be a Dr Who-style time machine, and soon she and both wives are travelling back and forth across the decades trying to warn one another of impending doom and avert the inevitable.
There are typical elements of good old bedroom farce, with people popping in and out of doors in various states of undress, and plenty of double entendres, but Ayckbourn’s wit and clever scriptwriting makes this a more interesting piece than your usual trousers-down, ooh-er missus, end-of-the-pier show.
He had envisaged a dystopian future of computerised, virtual sex and a London racked with warring factions, which seems now to have been fairly prophetic.
Grainne Harling made an upper-middle class wife to make Felicity Kendal proud, and Sally Rowlandson was a loveable cockneyfied Poopay.
The quick costume and make-up changes (sometimes the characters had to age or get younger by 20 years between scenes) were efficiently executed, and the diction of all the performers was impressive. Top marks, though, to the set designers and sound effects team. A slick production, and a thoroughly entertaining show.
And ps: Mike Rowbottom (Reece) prancing about in skin-tight undies with a brown toupée perched on his head is a comedic sight to behold.
Continues to tomorrow (Saturday). Box office (01491) 575698 or www.kentontheatre.co.uk
Henley Players in Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn
Tuesday, March 5