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

Three into one is not plane sailing

Menage a . . . lots: Karen Whittingham as Gabriella in rehearsal with Stefan Austin as Bernard, Jenny Luke as Gloria, Richard Taylor as Robert and Louise Fulwell as Gretchen

Boeing Boeing

The Nonentities

Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


THE ideal number of women to have in tow is three, make sure you are engaged to them all to maintain some discipline, and the ideal type to collect is air stewardesses as they are pre-selected by the airlines.

Then with skillful use of timetables and schedules it is easy to ensure only one of the thre will be in Paris at any one time. Simple.

That at least is the theory of lothario architect Bernard, played with an easy, man of the world confidence, somewhat misplaced as it turns out, by Stefan Austin. Bernard seems to have a girl on each flight.

Into his life comes the rather innocent and naïve country boy Robert, the old school friend he as not seen for almost 12 years. Robert, played in a state of bewilderment, interlaced with manic panic by Richard Taylor, doesn’t actually have a girl or indeed any realistic prospects of finding one. He does have some superb timing though as he rushes verbally and physically around the stage as order descends into chaos - the time honoured recipe for farce.

Bernard’s palatial Paris flat comes complete with Bertha who is whatever the opposite of sweetness and light happens to be. Vivienne Cole gives a delightful performance as the cantankerous, grumpy housekeeper and cook who sees any request for anything as a subject for negotiation.

Then there are the stewardesses. The belles Bernard is juggling to keep in the air, or at least keep any two from three away from Paris.

First is Gloria, TWA, brash, blonde and American played by Jenny Luke, then there is Gabriella, Alitalia, dark, sultry, passionate and Italian and finally there is Gretchen.

Gretchen is supposedly a stewardess with Lufthansa but it would be no surprise to discover it was really with the Luftwaffe, perhaps carrying stormtroopers. She is tall, cool, elegant and, should we say, authoritarian. A trait which appeals to Robert.

Robert, played by Richard Taylor, quite likes the idea of a strict disciplinarian like Gretchen, played by Louise Fulwell

While two betrothed stewardesses are scattered across the globe the third fiancé inhabits Bernard’s bed which is a comfortable if somewhat precarious arrangement that is until Boeing introduce faster planes which threaten the timetables and then severe storms disrupt flights and all three find themselves in Paris and Bernard’s timetable suffers the romantic equivalent of leaves on the lines, wrong sort of snow and a bovine incursion all at the same time.

The choice is simple; either Bernard will become a crime statistic, when his bits are finally identified of course, or, a collection of unlikely random events will come together to create a solution and a  happy(ish) ending. To find out which you will need to buy a ticket.

Farce might be lightweight theatre, more daft than drama, but it is one of the most difficult forms to pull off successfully and Marc Camoletti’s 1962 comedy is no exception. Farce depends above all on timing from the witty asides and caustic remarks to the exits and entrances which have to be timed to the split second if they are to work.  

Enter too soon and a scene and even the whole plot can be killed stone dead, come in too late and the impact is lost and this excellent cast never seemed to put a shapely foot wrong – the three stewardesses being the ones who had to enter and leave with the precision of air traffic control on a bank holiday weekend.

Director Stephen Downing has instilled a cracking pace which is another necessity of farce where you cannot afford to leave an audience with idle minds to analyse the plot too closely, he also manages to use the entire stage including front of curtain on the stage apron which all adds to the effect – and gives Robert somewhere to hide in the corner when the flak flies.

A mention too for stage manager Keith Higgins and assistant stage manager Mike Lawrence who built the excellent black and white, minimalist set with a real 1960’s feel while Sue Downing did a fine job with the wardrobe of colourful air stewardesses.

Full marks too for an entertaining and clever take on the usual request to turn off mobile phones - two people didn't - and warning not to take pictures.

With a believable cast on top form, good pace and a nice rhythm it is a production which is a sheer pleasure to watch. To 01-02-14.

Roger Clarke

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