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

farndale cast

Hannah Tolley, Amy Cooper, Steven Bougourd, Louise Fulwell, and Joan Wakeman as the  S'il vous plait cast  for the latest FAHETGDS production, a society where inept is merely an ambition. Picture: Colin Hill

Chase me Up Farndale Avenue, S’il Vous Plait

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


In recent years there have been a number of highly successful new plays which add goes wrong to the title. Plays such as The play that, Peter Pan and now Magic, along with The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, all from Mischief Theatre and all trading on theatrical calamity.

In most cases it’s often with some fictitious, poorly directed and inept Theatrical Company doing their best, badly, to complete some kind of stage production.

The Farndale Avenue series of plays by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jnr is not so much following the trend but could said to be the blueprint that others have followed.  McGillivray is no stranger to farce and the double entendre, being one of Julian Clary's writers and clearly here has a mission to keep the tradition of the saucy bedroom farce alive.

So in Chase me up, The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society has elected to stage a bedroom farce set in a small hotel in Paris. Unfortunately the production suffers a setback when one of its cast members is indisposed which means Minnie, the wardrobe assistant is called in to play several roles . . . unfortunately with the rigidity of a scaffold board and her script nervously in hand throughout.

The plot eventually becomes irrelevant as the chaos descends both in the guild’s attempt at the performance and being further frustrated by their technical department who add their own brand of calamity to the proceedings with mistimed and mistaken sound effects.

Louise Fullwell played the part of Mrs Reece, head of the hapless company, and seemed to channel the memory and personality of Penelope Keith’s Margo into her performance, gliding from every incident with a pleasant and confident smile. Hannah Tolley is Felicity and like her other Guild players, is challenged with the need to take on several charters within the play within the play. She begins principally as the Hotel’s maid with a vacuum cleaner that has a life of its own and Miss Tolley clearly revels in the chaos.

Amy Cooper is Thelma and showed great comic timing as the femme fatale caught up in the chaos only to be derailed by the news of her partners’ affair up in the technical control room .Stephen Bougourd is Gordon the only male member but amusingly having to cross dress due to the logistical timing of the Guild’s play.

Finally there is Joan Wakeman as Minnie. Minnie is the reluctant wardrobe mistress dragged centre stage to fulfil a role she knows nothing about complete with `stick on’ moustache. Forced to read from the script at all times, until it’s eventually destroyed, her deliberate stiff rendition of the part adds a great deal of comedy to the company’s serious theatrical intentions.

Keeping real track of all the fake chaos for The Nonentities is Director Martin Salter, who does a good job of keeping this crazy play on track by being committed to it being  . . . well off track. It’s a sizable ask to separate the intended chaos from any genuine ones but in the end it just doesn’t matter, as there’s enough laughs to cover everything.

With falling scenery, manic performances and a script that features more comedy twists and turns than a Brexit Mandate document, you will not fail to find funny in the Farndale Avenue players attempt at yet another amateur theatre production.  To 01-02-20.

Jeff Grant


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