Thursday, 19 April 2018

Joyous aviation farce has lift-off

It’s every young man’s dream - a revolving door to his bedroom with air hostesses coming

It’s every young man’s dream - a revolving door to his bedroom with air hostesses coming in and out.

Bernard has three on rotation and he’s engaged to them all. His life is a timetabled sexfest and as far as he’s concerned he’s got it made.

He could have carried on like that, but those pesky scientists invented faster jets and that messed up the timings - badly for him.

Boeing Boeing at The Mill at Sonning is a joyous, energetic, amoral ride which once it gets off the ground carries us along at Concorde speed.

We’re in Sixties Paris. Permissive London is just taking off but France has been airborne for centuries â?? sex to them is no more than their morning coffee and their half bottle of wine at dinner.



No need for the morality police here, everyone knows what they’re doing - the hostesses from Lufthansa, AlItalia and TWA have their own agendas, and while Bernard believes he’s in control, he really isn’t.

One observation: I don’t remember air hostesses’ skirts being that short in the Sixties - but who’s complaining?

Director Keith Myers wrings everything out of this play and the cast work at a furious pace to match the surprisingly subtle text.

Perhaps 15 minutes could be shaved from it but that’s not the director’s fault. The playwright, Marc Camoletti, overextended the opening set-up as the situation is explained to Bernard’s old school chum, Robert.

Steven Blakeley does a lot to pace this up anyway. He is a star turn as Robert. He drives everything and channels his inner Leonard Rossiter. His acting, movement and sheer comic presence make this play the success it is.

But the hostesses play their part too â?? none more than Erica Guyatt as Gretchen.

A free spirit defying Germanic stereotypes, she dominates whenever she’s on stage. The voice is powerful and varied, the accent faultless, the moves exaggerated and balletic, the poses statuesque. It’s a treat to watch her.

Carla Freeman as the fiery but very smart Italian Gabriella is also magnetic. She is a beautiful and passionate Italian.

And Rebecca Witherington as the American, Gloria, portrayed neatly as a brash soul playing the field around the world in the same way that Bernard plays it within his apartment.

So how does a farce work with no vicars, mothers-in-law or maiden aunts to upset? Very well indeed â?? they can just get on with the frailties of human nature.

Yes, it’s amoral, but there does seem to be one value which remains after the others are stripped away: loyalty!

When Gabriella wants to go into what she believes is her shared bedroom with Bernard, all manner of efforts are made to prevent her because it’s already occupied. Do we feel a pang of sympathy for her at that moment?

Make no mistake, this is a very funny belly-laugh of a night out, but it’s built on just a little bit of tragedy ... maybe?

Anyway, prepare to split your sides, it’s at the Mill until August 1.

Review: Mike Rowbottom



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