Don’t Dress for Dinner
THE FRENCH have long provided us with a convenient shortcut for bed-hopping folk of low morality whose antics we may not expressly condone but privately enjoy and perhaps even envy.
And we’re in rural France for this good-natured, frequently daft romp. It’s the stereotypical farmhouse France, home not only to the rural paysans but also to the well-heeled, pleasure-seeking Parisians keen on having a little fresh air away from the capital and their everyday lives.
Husband Bernard is planning a weekend of hosting his mistress while the wife’s away but, even before the first aperitif is poured, fate conspires to scupper those plans and set in train a sequence of lies and misunderstandings which are still being unravelled long after the dinner, the brandies and the washing up.
The key to good farce lies in increasing the pace as the chaos mounts and then finding extra, improbable gears to take the tempo higher. In the capable hands of director Steve Smith the performance puts the foot down right from the start and never lets the speedometer drop below flat out.
For the bulk of the evening this is a constantly twisting menage a cinq. And what a fine quintet they are. Paul Sully and Kim Arnold as the hosts are perfectly matched, Jack Sargent as the sorely put-upon best friend and Paige Phelps as the splendidly stylish mistress are immensely enjoyable. And, if these ingredients were not enough, Sharon Sully as the fabulous livewire cook provides the most joyous of sauces.
Arriving late to the party, and providing the catalyst for yet more chaotic crossed-wires is the cook’s husband played by Galli Donaldson.
All this is played out on a set by John Ellam every bit as detailed and authentic as the fine French cuisine on offer. Add in chic costuming, and a French flair to everything from the music to the doorbell and this is cordon bleu stuff.
Lies and deception, served with a sizeable portion of self-preservation, make for a melange the characters – and by association both the cast and the audience – do well to keep up with.
Rapid farce building on relentless misunderstandings and endless re-imaginings of the truth can be an exhausting watch, but within the mounting, constant ramping up of the jeopardy there are some cracking one-liners and crushing asides which thankfully don’t get lost.
This fine production, high on style and laughter, will just get better throughout the run and those booking a seat at the dining table will get a meal to remember.
Don’t Dress for Dinner runs until Saturday May 27. Visit talismantheatre.co.uk for full details and booking.