The Tudor Players’s version of John Chapman’s farce is a hoot.
The play is set in a country hotel, post war, run by a bumbling, ex-colonel and his wife. Peter Howard’s set is great, with 50s wallpaper, a coat of arms and the inevitable stag’s head hanging up. Colonel Wagstaff’s hotel is pretty quiet until some wide boys descend, in order to win money betting on a losing horse.
Chapman’s witty script encompasses a variety of comedic styles. From Wagstaff’s biting sarcasm to his wife, “Are you awake dear?” “No I’m sleepwalking”. To Beth the maid’s gentle flirtation with Phipps.
A large proportion of the comedy is good old-fashioned slapstick however. Roger Bingham and John Moran as Tubbe and Phipps, respectively get the best of the action. A particularly funny scene is watching Tubbe teaching Phipps to mount a sofa in preparation for being a jockey.
Their Laurel and Hardy routine works beautifully. I keep waiting for Bingham to say, “That’s another fine mess you’ve got me into, Phipps!” John Fereday also does well as the third spiv, Flash Harry, complete with cockney-geezer accent. Jenn Aspinall is endearing with her Somerset accent and catchphrase, “my dear”. Although appearing some 20 years later, one feels Fawlty Towers owes a debt to Chapman.
Director Peter Howard manages to get the comic timing just right from his confident players, with a complex set of sliding panels, knocking, opening doors and collapsing stairs! Finalement, bravo a Monsieur Ross Bannister qui a parle en francais pendant toute la piece!