Boeing Boeing has landed at Theatre Royal Winchester this week. Written in 1962 by Marc Camoletti, this manic French farce took The West End and Broadway by storm and even made it on to the big screen starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis.
Yes, it is somewhat dated now and not quite in line with modern humour or culture – but this revival directed by Michael Cabot still has plenty of spark thanks to a first rate cast who work at full throttle throughout.
Set and costume designer Beck Palmer has come up with a chic-looking apartment for the Parisian architect, Bernard, and his flighty ladies with the required number of doors for the non-stop exits and entrances.
Bernard has three air hostess finances from three different airlines who arrive and depart from his apartment with mathematical precision until the sudden advent of a faster jet and a snow storm causes Gabriella, Gretchen and Gloria’s visits to overlap. Let chaos begin.
As it happens Bernard has another surprise guest, Robert, his old school friend up from the provinces. A somewhat naive character who is at first appalled by his friend’s profligate sexual behaviour before being temped himself while loyally trying to cover his friend’s tracks. A great role for Paul Sandys who very much looks the part and takes on this supporting role with all the vigour required.
Bernard, the three-timing womanizer, is played by John Dorney displaying supreme confidence until his well-planned life goes into free fall when he becomes a squirming idiot. Dorney’s bodily contortions and excruciating facial expressions are something to behold and quite over the top.
Now what of those three hostesses, statuesque American Gloria (Isabel Della-Porta) loud and domineering, Al Italia’s Gabriella (Nathalie Barclay), romantic and highly emotional, and Hitlerish German Grechan (Jessica Dennis)? All very glamorous in their different ways and looking stunning in their various uniforms or seductive in their night attire once settled in for a night of passion with Bernard. Or so they believe. All three actresses are character perfect to carry this frantic farce to its farcical conclusion.
My favourite character is Bertha, Bernard’s joyless maid of all work, superbly portrayed by Jo Castleton. Bertha is well attuned to her master’s lifestyle, even producing suitable dishes to suite the taste of each of his ladies. She and Robert work hard to try and keep the various factions apart which only leads to more chaos and confusion. Bertha although a French maid has a Yorkshire dialect which is somewhat odd but does suite the taciturn character.
Boeing Boeing does provide light-hearted entertainment at a time when it seems doom and gloom are in vogue. So thank you to the cast and to Winchester’s Theatre Royal for a fun evening.
This production will be in Winchester until this Saturday (July 23) so if you are in need of a bit of light relief contact the box office on 01962 840440 or visit their website at theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk
Review by Sue Cansfield