By Ray Cooney
Directed by Ian Dickens
Company: Ian Dickens Productions
Venue: Connaught Theatre
Date: Thursday 4th September 2008
This is a very well-written farce with lots of complications, so you have to pay attention to remember who’s said what to whom. We’d seen it back in the early 1980s, with Eric Sykes in the lead role, and enjoyed it enormously. We were keen to see how well it had survived the years.
The plot concerns a taxi driver called John Smith, who has two wives happily living a few minutes’ drive apart in London. Neither knows about the other, and John’s worked very hard to keep it that way. Unfortunately, one night he helps an old woman who’s being mugged, getting a bash on the head himself in the process, and from the woman he’s trying to help! The next morning, delivered to the ‘wrong’ house from the hospital, he finds that he’s a hero, and if his picture gets into the papers, his double life will become exceedingly single and behind bars to boot! His neighbour from the upstairs flat, Stanley Gardner, helps him out as best he can once John’s explained the situation, and all sorts of mayhem ensues. The police are already involved, as the Mrs Smith from Streatham has reported her husband missing, while the Wimbledon police were involved because of the foiled mugging, so two police officers have to be kept satisfied. Not an easy job. Then the telephone number of the Streatham house is left on a piece of paper at the Wimbledon house, so calls are going back and forth with massive confusion and lots of laughs as a result.
The set shows the two houses simultaneously, with separate front doors, and combined living rooms. It was a little confusing at times, but on the whole I could remember who was where. Thank god the cast kept track! The whole lot end up in Streatham, where eventually John Smith confesses all to the police. Trouble is, after all the stories he and Stanley have been spinning, they don’t believe him! End of play.
This cast did very well, and we both enjoyed ourselves a lot. David Callister, a stalwart of Ian Dickens productions, played John Smith, with Mervyn Hayes as Stanley. The gay hairdresser from the flat above the Streatham place was played by Paul Henry, and the entire cast did a great job keeping up the pace. This farce has definitely got the legs to run and run.
© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me