A GOOD farce is like a soufflé. It might appear insubstantial, but it’s a delicate creation that needs careful preparation if you don’t want it to fall flat.
Judging by the audience reaction to Not Now Darling on its opening night, director Ron Aldridge and his team at the Mill seem to have got the ingredients just about right.
The play, written in 1967 by Ray Cooney and John Chapman, now has the feel of a period piece, a window on a specific place and time, when fur coats were worn without stigma and pretty young girls were routinely referred to as “crumpet” or “birds”.
There are a few such pretty girls in this production, two of whom seem to spend much of their time dashing in and out of doors dressed only in their underwear.
The plot centres on the philandering Gilbert Bodley (Michael Howe), whose apparently simple idea of arranging the sale of a mink coat to seal a romantic conquest sets off a dizzying chain of events.
Howe is well cast, with his smooth, Leslie Phillips-like demeanour and easy ability to strike up a rapport with the audience.
Patrick Monckton, as Gilbert’s hapless business partner Arnold, is a gift for directors of this kind of show. He’s a natural clown, with a knack for physical comedy and an elastic face reminiscent of the late great Les Dawson. The rest of the cast has a nice blend of what football pundits routinely call “youth and experience”, with assured performances from Mill returnees David Cardy, Belinda Carroll and Elizabeth Elvin and eye-catching debuts at the venue for Francesca Bailey, Heather Gibbs and Lizzie Stables.
Audience laughter grew steadily more uproarious as on-stage events became increasingly riotous, and loud whoops greeted the curtain call.
* Not Now Darling runs until January 18. For tickets and times of performances call the box office on 0118 969 6039 or visit the theatre website www.millatsonning.com
Not Now Darling
The Mill at Sonning
Thursday, November 28