Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

ding dong

Dexter Whitehead (left) as Bernard, Louise Farmer as Barbara, Phil Beadsmoore as Robert and Lynette Coffey as Jacqueline. Pictures: Alastair Barnsley

Ding Dong

Sutton Arts Theatre


When it comes to farce it takes something special to top Brexit, but Sutton Arts have managed it with a beautifully paced, very funny production of Marc Camoletti’s Ding Dong.

Camoletti, who gave us Boeing Boeing and Don’t Dress for Dinner, is a master of French farce, taking a simple tale of everyday Parisienne folk, usually involving l’amour or at least good old fashioned nooky, then throwing in a few pebbles to see what the waves wash up.

In this case it is a simple case of adultery with Mme Jacqueline Marcellin popping out to her hair stylist every Saturday afternoon as she has done for the past six months.

Then we have M. Robert Regnier, director of a plastics firm, who works every Saturday afternoon at roughly the same time as Mme Marcellin’s supposed time in curlers . . . can we see where this is going yet?

The apple cart is somewhat upset when Mme Marcellin's husband, Bernard, discovers, by chance, another narrative to this Saturday tale, one of a more horizontal and adulterous nature, and so entices Robert round, flowers in hand, for what our lover boy believes to be his weekly tryst.


Stephanie Miles as the wonderfully obtuse and obstreperous Marie-Louise, with Bernard fighting a losing battle trying to explain the complexities of the doorbell ringing

Now Bernard is a reasonable man, or at least reasonable by Marseilles underworld standards, and offers Robert two options to satisfy his desire for revenge, the first is of a more permanent kind and the second involves Mme Juliette Regnier, Robert’s wife, as a sort of balancing the sexual books option.

And just so it comes to a head ASAP Bernard invites, or, as he has the moral high ground and violent friends, orders, Robert to come to dinner that evening with wife Juliette.

Dexter Whitehead is superb as the very reasonable and matter of fact Bernard, exuding a sinister air with a smile and ne’er a cross word, a performance all the more remarkable as he only stepped in three weeks ago.

Phil Beadsmoore is a somewhat subdued Robert, having been caught, figuratively speaking, with his pants around his ankles. He manages a nice line in panic and even manages his own menacing moment as the curtain is about to fall.

There is a lovely exchange when Bernard tells Robert to tell his wife that his excuse for the late dinner invite is to say Bernard, a property developer, has placed a huge order for plastic fittings for a new apartment block Bernard is building.

Whereupon Robert pricks up his ears, forgets it is merely an excuse, and starts to ask about quantities and is ready to negotiate a price – a businessman to the last.


Louise Farmer as Juliette, or more accurately as wife for hire, Barbara

Lynette Coffey as Jacqueline is a loving wife, a confident, woman about town . . . that is until Robert arrives for dinner when she becomes more a pretend loving wife and more a worried lover, after all she doesn’t know the price she might have to pay, but for now she contents herself as being somewhat indignant that Bernard’s revenge plan involves Juliette.

Ah, Juliette. Now Robert has come up with a cunning plan arriving with Juliette who is not really Juliette but Barbara a €2,000 a night escort – which is posh for call girl - played with a fine display of her attributes by Louise Farmer as the tart with a heart. It is a lovely display with Barbara probably the most honest of the lot of them. 

She comes over as a bit of a bimbo, but you suspect that is merely because that is what is expected of an escort, there for decoration rather than deep debate.

With Bernard quite taken by Juliette, even though it is Barbara, Robert supposedly resigned to his “wife’s” fate, and Jacqueline . . . well, caught in between flagrante delictos and about to become a reluctant, if hardly repentant, cuckquean, all is going swimmingly well.


Alison Daly as the real Juliette

But farce being farce, the spanner in the sexual works arrives in the not inconsiderable form of the real Juliette, a woman, in the hands of Alison Daly, you feel you would regret crossing, as you suspect Robert may well find out after curtain down. You would not be surprised if his voice was an octave or two higher for the next performance.

So, with the real Juliette arriving, causing Robert to suffer attacks of the vapours, Bernard plotting plan B after being deceived, Barbara keeping to her task, Juliette seething and Jacqueline . . . still wondering where she stood in all this, chaos reigns.

And through it all, like a rather unwelcoming port in a storm is Marie-Louise, the somewhat irritable, belligerent maid, whose grasp of what is going on is . . . should we say limited. Nothing is simple, apart from Marie-Louise that is. Any instruction ends either in a grumpy bout of complaints or needs explaining umpteen times on the odd chance it might eventually be understood, including the novelty of the doorbell ringing, or ding dong we might say.

It is a gloriously comic performance from Stephanie Miles, she is a delight with some wonderful timing and ne’er a hint of a smile all night.

English farce relies on men without trousers and women in underwear, French more on wordplay and the cast do a fine job with what is a quickfire script, particularly the initial interchange between Bernard and Robert as the plot is laid out.

The cast of six keep up a cracking pace on another fine Sutton set, this one, a Paris apartment of perhaps the 1970s, designed by director Joanne Ellis. There are some nice touches, such as the Eiffel Tower just visible on the skyline through the French windows on to the terrace, and lights appearing in the distant cityscape as evening falls.

It’s an undemanding and well-constructed comedy to warm a winter’s night with plenty of laughs and never a dull moment. Well directed and with a fine cast it makes for a thoroughly entertaining evening. To 09-02-19

Roger Clarke


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