You know the story… husband is having an affair, wife is having an affair and wife’s friend is trying to have an affair. All end up in the same house trying to keep their lovers (or prospective lovers) a secret from everyone else. There’s a good helping of opened and closed doors, a liberal dash of mistaken identities and plenty of lies and innuendo. British farce is what it is and never claims to be anything else. Now, while this is not exactly my favourite form of theatre, there’s no doubt it can be very entertaining if it’s done well. It absolutely needs to be extremely well-rehearsed and as tight as can be. Doors which open and close frequently so that characters just miss one another need split second timing, to the point where the audience is left gasping at the thought that someone was almost caught out. Lines need to be delivered with perfect comic timing and at an often frantic pace as characters become more and more entangled in their own lies and deception and the desperation to conceal goes beyond the absurd.
Unfortunately the CTG production of Derek Benfield’s Anyone for Breakfast? suffers from hitting the stage a little too soon. It could do with a couple more weeks of solid rehearsal to get that tightness and timing spot-on. All the elements are there some nice characterisations, a well-designed set and some great costuming but it just seems under-rehearsed, particularly for this type of play. Some obvious struggles for lines, some missed entrance cues and some misplaced facial expressions should not happen (or should be covered extremely well) if a farce is to succeed. That being said from a reviewer’s point of view, the success or failure of a production largely rests upon whether the audience enjoys it, and the comic situations certainly got plenty of laughs from the full house the night I went. The British farce, no matter what the critic thinks of it, is always a crowd pleaser.
The performance that shone for me was that of Wendy John as Helga. As the token leggy blonde, in this case a German air hostess, John remains in character and with accent from start to finish. To think that she joined the cast only 12 days before opening (according to the program notes) and pulled off such a delightful performance is a credit to her. Other performances of note are those of Viv Staley as Shirley, who turns in a nicely even performance, and Richard Barakat as Mark, who provides a well-judged and thankfully not-overplayed characterisation. His transformation from a leather-clad biker to a suave young man in a dinner suit (complete with “Mission Impossible” theme music) is a nice touch.
Director Chris Guyler has to be admired for his stamina in taking on the lead character as well as directing the production and designing the set, but I have a problem with directors who also cast themselves in a major role. I find it hard to accept a production can be directed to its full potential when the director is on stage for most of the play. In so doing, the director does not have the advantage of sitting out front to see what’s working and what’s not from an audience perspective.
Meanwhile, I would like to see this production a couple of weeks down the track when I’m sure the timing and delivery will have improved immeasurably.