Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Farce is strong with cheating cabbie’s tale of woe

Farce is strong with cheating cabbie’s tale of woe

Run for Your Wife | Mill at Sonning | Friday, October 4

DESPERATE dashes, a
disintegrating central
character, a gorgeous woman running around in skimpy black underwear — it’s farce time at the Mill at Sonning and there are few who do this sort of thing better.

And bringing in the farce master Ray Cooney to direct his own Run for Your Wife ensures the quality. This is fast, often furious, frequently frantic and chock-full of belly laughs.

Cooney first wrote this in 1982 and doesn’t seem to have done much to the script since. Some things are permanent, though, like infidelity and bigamy.

Cooney and many other farceurs have made their living out of those two character weaknesses and, tragic as they may be in real life, they are the very stuff of comedy.

Quite how cuddly Nick Wilton as cab driver John Smith managed to get the amorous attentions of two out and out goddesses like Judy Buxton and Michelle Morris as his two wives is one of those mysteries which has baffled the
Y-chromosomed for
millennia. But they do, so Cooney gives us all hope.

As usual the plot revolves around cheating — what’s often good about modern farces is not that people are attempting to be unfaithful, but that they often have been and it’s the ever more complicated covering up which provides the fun.

And so it is with Run for Your Wife: John Smith is a London cabbie with wives in Wimbledon and Streatham. He breaks up his attentions to them in day- and night-shifts, but that comes unstuck when he’s attacked and finds his meticulously planned schedule of
deception thrown out by several hours.

He keeps being where he shouldn’t be and the police don’t help by turning up when they’re not wanted.

Nick Wilton’s John Smith is hilarious. We see him go from a man dazed and
confused to a frenzied
desperation as everything unravels.

His sidekick, Jeffrey Holland’s Stanley Gardner, is the perfect foil — as we might have expected from this Mill favourite and farce specialist. Holland’s timing and facial expressions are a delight and no matter how exaggerated are always just right.

Elizabeth Elvin’s schoolmarm-like police sergeant is suitably censorious, while David Warwick’s other police officer is effectively liberal and curious.

The only thing which seems out of place in the 21st century is the way gay people are portrayed — calling them fairies and having a character as fey and effete might have been fashionable in 1982 but we’ve come a long way since then.

That apart, another farcical bullseye for the Mill.

Until November 23.

Mike Rowbottom

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