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

 A serving of finest romp

It's romp time at The Rose - but whether Alex Forty is having quite as much fun as Natalie Minaker and Charlotte Moseley is uncertain.

Don't Dress for Dinner

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


MARC CAMOLETTI has written a glorious romp – and here it has a company whose talent shines forth in delivering it.

I fear I did not work out why it had to be placed in Normandy, but we are reminded that there is a bit of patois involved because one of the characters proffers her lines in splendidly forthright tones of purest Brummie.

And in any case, the French barn conversion that is its ambience is represented by a set of unimpeachable quality, so one merely gives thanks for the kind of talent involved in designing it

It's a joy. Mistaken identities, deliberate dissembling, one man in trouble and his best man and friend of 15 years unfailingly becoming his fall guy – it's all here, all the requisite ingredients producing laughter without the option.

Director Shirley Gaston has assembled a six-strong cast without a weak link, delivering dialogue that emerges clear, uncluttered and quick-fire. Here is a company that knows precisely what is expected of it – and which handles its responsibilities without a tremor.

The complications are down to Bernard (Richard Taylor), who has an eye for the ladies and who plans to – er, make lay while his wife's away. He is launched on the slippery road to total disaster when his wife doesn't actually go away, which means that his mistress (Charlotte Young) finds herself cast as the cook when she turns up.

Mr Taylor comes confidently to his duties. He supports his lines with decisive gestures in a role that requires him to change his shirt several times after repeated soakings. He also receives a succession of face-slaps. This is by no means the kind of action that Action Man had in mind but he comes through it with aplomb.

Louise Fulwell is his wife, Jacqueline – elegant, shapely, unruffled, a cut-glass conversationalist and generally a joy of calm in a turbulent sea.

Stefan Austin is Robert – he who suffers much for his panicking friend but retains sufficient equanimity to be able to give us an efficient run-down of the plot half way through the action, as well as providing intermittent cover for his friend.

Charlotte Young and Natalie Minaker are splendidly on hand as Suzanne and Suzette, both of them known as Suzy and both facing responsibilities in the kitchen as the needs of Bernard's deception grow ever more demanding – with Ms Minaker also required to share a surprising tango with Stefan Austin half way through the proceedings as well as acclimatising to finding herself unexpectedly cast as Robert's niece.

Alex Forty turns up late-on to amusing effect as big Brummie chef George.

This is a splendid farce, deftly done – and one that I have seen only once before, in 28 years of chasing amateurs across their boards. It really ought to find its way more frequently into seasons' programmes. To 21-04-12.

John Slim 

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