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

boeing head

Let me introduce you! Karen Whittingham as fiancée Gabriella, Phil Sheffield as Bernard, Debra Attwood as fiancée No 2 Gretchen, and Matt Bryom as Robert


Dudley Little Theatre


IT’S back to the swinging sixties with Marc Comoletti’s French farce and Bernard is the happy bachelor about town with the perfect love life – sharing his Paris flat with not just one but three gorgeous air hostesses.

Not all at the same, of course, that would be greedy, and somewhat exhausting, but with the wonders of modern long haul travel with its crew layovers, an up to date airline timetable,modest organisational skills – and a compliant if somewhat cantankerous maid - it is perfectly possible to have three romances running in parallel in splendid isolation.

Thus Bernard is simultaneously engaged to American Gloria from TWA, Italian Gabriella from Alitalia and German Gretchen from Lufthansa, or perhaps that should be Lusthansa under the circumstances; three live-in lovers kept apart by their well-oiled airline schedules.

Simple, that is until the perfect storm hits the perfect passion; first there is Gloria’s news as she leaves for New York that TWA’s new, faster super Boeings will mean she will be spending more time in Paris, which could bring the schedule crashing down, and then, more immediate, Gabriella, who has just arrived, announces she is moving to Alitalia’s new, faster Super Constellations which means she will also spend more time in Paris . . . and her flight today is now tomorrow.

Gretchen, due to arrive after Gabriella was supposed to have left, who was to be arriving late is now early and Gloria’s flight to New York has returned to Paris because of bad weather. berthaSo all head home to . . . Bernard’s flat near Orly airport, the love timetable in tatters.

In the middle of all this walks Robert, an old school friend who has just arrived from Aix-en-Provence while helping keep all the balls in the air is the belligerent maid Bertha, who was inherited with the flat.

Bertha, played with cantankerous contempt by Jackie Bevan is a delight, a comic gem; obstreperous, argumentative and revelling in the unfolding disaster in a comic gem while Dudley regular Phil Sheffield as Bernard is a revelation, showing a wonderful flair for comedy.

Bernard and Robert plead with Bertha, played by Jackie Bevan, to stay and help sort out the mess

His facial expressions, Pythonesque grimaces and exaggerated cringing as his pick and mix world of lust comes crashing around is ears is a pleasure to watch.

He opens as the suave, in control, master of his morally questionable destiny, explaining his system of romance by rota to the newly arrived Robert, then slowly descending from lover boy to blubber boy, a near gibbering wreck, verbally tap dancing his way deeper into the chasm of catastrophe as his chickens, or in this case, air hostesses, come home to roost.

Drawn into the panic as an unwitting collaborator is Robert played with a sort of provincial charm by Matt Byrom. Robert has no romantic involvements with anyone apart from some girl he likes but has never asked out, but finds himself drawn into helping Bernard, flapping and flustering his way wonderfully through an ever growing mountain of lies and deceptions.

And then there are the girls; Pam Griffith’s Gloria is open, a little blousy perhaps, with a hint of good-time girl about her while Gabriella from Karen Whittingham is a passionate, head strong Italian you feel it would be best not to cross unless you have a penchant for hospital food.

Then there is Gretchen played with humourless Teutonic seriousness by Debra Attwood, dour, straight-faced, and with all the sense of fun of a plant pot and with a nationalistic diet which seems to consist of frankfurters and sauerkraut. She has an ardour that one imagines demands immediate attention and complete obedience.

Three different women, three different, and consistent, accents and three different problems for Bernard and Robert, or perhaps Marc Camoletti, to solve and that’s where all the fun for the audience comes in.

It is a farce that depends upon impeccable timing both verbally and physically with three bedroom doors, a bathroom door, lounge door and kitchen entrance all part of the plot as people are ushered into rooms, prevented from entering or emerge unannounced, and the cast had it spot on.

Director Maurice Felton has done a good job in controlling the rhythm of the production opening with the easy, gentle pace at the start when all was well and Bernard was in control giving way to panic when things start to unravel and it then becomes positively frantic as everything crashes and burns around poor Bernard - all of which means the two hour length just flies by.

Dudley have produced a good set which works well and Phil Sheffield, again, has done a fine job on costumes, particularly the three air hostess uniforms. It’s fun, clever, well-acted by a strong cast, fast paced, entertaining and is packed with of laughs - a most enjoyable evening and you can’t ask more from a farce than that. To 14-05-15.

Roger Clarke


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