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

Racing along for laughs

Don't Dress for Dinner

The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


THIS French farce is performed at such a hectic pace that some members of the cast are drenched in perspiration, and that's not all.

Cheating husband Bernard (Dexter Whitehead) has to disappear from the stage several times for a shirt change after being blasted by a soda siphon and soaked by glasses of wine, and for good measure has his face vigorously slapped.

What lengths amateur actors have to go to for their art! Marc Camoletti's play makes big demands on the cast of six, but they cope admirably in a marathon of misunderstanding, marital treachery, slapstick humour and crackpot cover-ups.

At first there even seems to be a danger of over-acting in the efforts Bernard needs to make trying to convince his wife that he wasn't planning a little sexual mischief in her absence when she suddenly changes her mind about leaving him alone for the weekend while she visits her mother.

But eventually the audience manage to keep up to speed with all the alibis and identity errors, starting with a young cook from the Bon Appetit catering agency being mistaken for the host's mistress.

The action takes place in the living room of Bernard and his wife's renovated farmhouse some distance from Paris in 1979, and the attractive set works perfectly. with windows showing the countryside overlooked by the property.

Whitehead is excellent as the cheating husband, and Rachel Waters plays the wronged wife, Jacqueline - who has a guilty secret of her own - impressively.

A terrific performance, too, from Aimee Hall, playing the visiting cook Suzette who finds herself innocently drawn into the web of deceit and gradually turning the powder keg situation into her financial benefit. There is a brilliant scene when Bernard and his friend Robert transform her waitress-style costume into a smart evening dress. A tricky and 'hazardous' move which earns instant applause.

Robert Newton also sparkles as the Bernard's best pal who turns out to be even more friendly with his friend's wife and has to pretend to be the lover of Bernard's mistress, Suzanne, well played by Zoe Maisey.

A wonderful end to the play sees the arrival of Suzette's aggresive husband George (Carl Horton) who, not surprisingly, misreads the situation and causes yet another spot of mahem.

Well directed by Christopher Waters, the play runs to19.01.13

Paul Marston 

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