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

Farce with a capital F for fun


Sophie Harrison gives Rob Broadhurst a ticklish moment in Hotel Paradiso.

Hotel Paradiso

The Nonentities

Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


WELL, hooray for the company that can make a Feydeau farce even funnier after more than a century – by riding triumphantly over a slight oversight in furniture-shifting by the backstage department. 

A 20-minute interval on the first night ended with a small desk and a padded pink box seat, which had furnished the study in the short first act, making an unscheduled second appearance, somehow undisturbed and prominently established in the hotel at the start of the second act.

But hooray again – for Richard Taylor, leading light, as Boniface, in the rib-tickling turmoil of Jen Eglinton's splendid production. He picked up the desk and the seat in turn and carried them smartly into the wings, to deserved applause. Nothing was going to get in the way of what was already turning into a triumphal evening. 

His prime responsibility, nevertheless, is to ensure that the laughter is related his efforts to see that Boniface has a naughty night with a willing lady, and he achieves it magnificently. He brims with energy, physically and vocally. And when he stands still, he sometimes stands frozen into a backward curve as he reinforces his emotion of the moment – though there is nothing motionless about his anguished jugglings with the stone hot-water bottle which he suddenly finds is in his charge. 

Nor was there a first-night problem in detecting a momentary deviation from the script. “Bugger!” he said. “Now back to the plot.” 


This is a performance of unwavering confidence, conceived in inspiration and carried out with aplomb as Boniface talks his way out of one problem after another – but it is no more than the rest of the company deserves. This is a romp that has to be well-served at its centre, but every one else also pitches unreservedly into the improbabilities, with Tori Wakeman, as Boniface's wife Angelique, successfully playing the straight bat that is always necessary on these occasions. 

Louise Fulwell (Marcelle) scores resoundingly as the object of Boniface's desires, underpinning a natural comic talent by unfailingly substituting a W for every R in a way that is weally wib-tickling. 

Martin Copland-Gray turns up as Cot – pompous, exuberantly moustachioed, morning-suited, ample of figure, with a top hat that completes an unnerving evocation of the late Sir Gerald Nabarro, MP for Kidderminster and scourge of Purchase Tax, who always sported this particular headgear on Budget Day. 

Stuart Woodroffe is one-man mayhem as Martin, the citizen who can either speak normally or stutter – depending on the weather – and possessing a leg that is liable to kick out in moments of verbal stress. Sophie Harrison brings us a French maid who is a delight without the sauce that such a role customarily implies. 

There are three schoolgirls in identikit costumes, an energetic hotel manager who is a joy of incomprehensibility, and two young men – one an hotel employee with an obliging brace-and-bit and one who makes his own unpredictable contribution to the inanities around him – plus a small but inevitably amusing police force. 

It is a wonderful, wacky evening, with bonus amusement deliberately attached to the flickering electric candles that are among the 1910 hotel's accoutrements. It's a joy: full-blown farce to tune up the tummy muscles. To 16.04.11.

John Slim

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