John Cleese (based on Feydeau's Monsieur Chasse)
Dermot McLaughlin Productions, Charles H Duggan & Brian Zucker, with Farces Galore and Exeter Northcott Theatre
February 19-22, 2020; 2hr 05min
John Cleese makes his stage writing debut with Bang Bang!, a somewhat uneven blend of French farce and Fawlty Towers. The set and costumes are classic 19th century, as in Feydeau, but the dialogue is 20th Century vernacular – as with Brian Rix, the quintessentially British actor/manager and master of farce. The plot is, predictably, about extra-marital sex and fear of discovery. Hallmarks of classic farce are on show here; the "French" maid with the funny accent "who may be Belgian", the incriminating letter, the convenient wardrobe, the two doors for well- timed entrances and exits, and above all the trousers, or rather lack of them or the wrong ones – a classic Rix motif.
This new touring production by Exeter Northcott Theatre, directed by Daniel Buckroyd, is supported by a cast of actors experienced in comedic roles. Tessa Peake-Jones, familiar to audiences of the long-running television series Only Fools and Horses, is Leontine, the betrayed wife, determined to be revenged by beginning an affair with her admirer, Dr Moricet (Richard Earl), so risking compromising herself. Her philandering husband, Duchotel (Tony Gardner) uses the excuse of a shooting party as a cover for his amorous activities, echoing the title in more ways than one.
Madam Latour (Wendi Peters) as the nosey concierge renting rooms for illicit love, is played with wit and a certain false pathos as the woman who loved and lost. Gontran, the opportunistic young nephew who exploits the situation to his own financial advantage is played with great style by Daniel Burke.
But the the plot does work – despite the rather contrived ending.
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