‘Rookery Nook’ was written by one of the greatest farce playwrights, Ben Travers. Travers was hero of and inspiration for Brian Rix, many years the Whitehall King of Farce.
Although Travers’ parents were Hendon based, he went overseas to work for the family sugar business in Malaysia. To fill in his time in Asia he started writing plays, the first being published in 1925. He continued writing right up to his 90th birthday, when he produced one of his most hilarious farces, ‘The Bed before Yesterday’. With the Lord Chamberlain – the censor – to deal with, Travers farces were never a problem, always being much less saucy than the Alan Ayckbourn series that followed a few decades later.
There have been two TV productions of ‘Rookery Nook’; the first 60 years ago starred Peter Cushing, the second - twenty years later - in 1970, starred Richard Briers and Arthur Lowe.
This updated, but still looking a little ‘aged’, production of ‘Rookery Nook’ is lovingly recreated at the Marloo Theatre, Marloo Road, Greenmount. Curtain up at 8.00 pm, with performance until Saturday 28th April. Matinees on Sunday 15th and 22nd at 2.00 pm.
The curtain rises to reveal a stunning set (designed by George Boyd, built by a dozen quality workers) it is 1926 in a country manor, complete with luxury antique furniture and tasteful soft fittings (Sandra Sando, Leslie Sutton), and a staircase with balcony. One of the best sets in months.
A couple of young, well-to-do cousins, Gerald (Alex Sutton) and Clive (Harrison MacLennan) Popkiss have heard about the beautiful wild girls in the area, and so have rented this Chumpton-on-Sea country home from the haughty and domineering Mrs Twine (Jennifer Trestrail) and her grovelling, fretful husband, Harold (Drew Dyer).
Mrs Twine is a fearsome boss, and is on the verge of having a walkout by her equally formidable daily help, Mrs Leverett (Amanda Minutillo) because of the extra unpaid work that she has to carry out. The young men are happy if the cleaner goes more chance of uninterrupted hanky panky. As the boys are chatting about their childhood days, a knock comes to the door. There stands a beautiful girl, Rhoda (Jennifer Bowman) in a pair of wet pyjamas, she has been thrown out of her home by her cruel German stepfather, Mr Putz (Don Callison - wunderbar). Rhoda stays overnight with the boys, but has no clothes to wear in order to start a new life – can the lads help her find some?
Will Gerald remember to tell Rhoda that he has recently married Clara (Rachel Vonk)? What chaos will ensue when Mr Twine’s golfing partner (Don Callison) arrives? What awaits a poor innocent girl, Poppy (Taylor Bartells) who calls, collecting for charity. Who is the mysterious Mrs Possett (Rosemary Mowbray)?
The director, Lynne Devenish, has her team working perfectly. It was opening night so the pace was a little slow to start, but soon the rapport clicked in and the jokes flowed well. The delivery and characterisation were excellent, although in a farce the actors who are portraying a panic-ridden person should not be standing feet together, and in an upright posture. A stoop, almost fight or flight stance, with legs well apart, ready to run comes across more convincingly. This slight hamming it up adds to the enjoyment.
The whole cast were very funny, but it was Don Callison and Taylor Bartells that got the spontaneous applause. Last night there were three bus loads of seniors who absolutely loved every second. They came out with all the ‘oh dear, here she comes!’ and ‘oh, now he will be in trouble’ comments.
With 8 doors on the set I expected to see split second exits and entrances, but this play had little of this style incorporated in the script.
The lighting designer (David Bain) remembered to put a light behind any door that was being opened; often there is a black void. Norm Kirton’s sound effects and noises-off were top class. The costumes by Marjorie DeCaux were both beautiful, sexy and in the case of Harold’s golfing outfit madly eccentric!
I had a most enjoyable night out, seeing a quality production. Well done.
Friday 10th May 2013 8pm
Saturday 11th May 2013 2pm & 8pm
Friday 17th May 2013 8pm
Saturda 18th May 2013 2pm & 8pm
Friday 24th May 2013 8pm
Saturday 25th May 2013 2pm & 8pm