Review – Rookery Nook, Menier Chocolate Factory

Thursday 23 April 2009

cf0fd1e5e32404f2c889623839682db2_5496-4_rookery_233x31821st April:  On this day in 753BC Romulus and Remus founded Rome;  in 1926AD was born our beloved Queen and in 1949 Broadway star Patti LuPone made her debut in the world.

And on some unspecified 21st April between then and now, Andrew was born.

Now Phil – having passed many, many more anniversaries than Andrew – is wise enough to know that one should enjoy oneself on one’s birthday.

But Andrew – a slow learner if ever there were one – bizarrely chose to celebrate the passage of his time towards inevitable death with yet another trip to the theatre. To see a preview of the frothy farce – Rookery Nook, to be precise.The trouble is, that now the Menier Chocolate Factory has got into its stride with the notion of printing numbers on the tickets and stapling corresponding numbers to the seats the Whingers feel honour bound to patronise every show in order to encourage the management to continue the practice in perpetuity.

And this production has some “form” as they apparently say in racing circles. First, it’s directed by Terry Johnson who delivered the eventually first class La Cage Aux Folles. Second, it features Mark Hadfield – one of the very few male members of the acting profession to have been acknowledged twice by the Whingers (here and here). Third, it also boasts the woman who played Nurse Gladys Emanuel in that classic Ronnie Barker sitcom about a man with a speech impediment. Fourth, it features WEW fave Sarah Woodward.

And as they took their seats the set (by Tim Shortall) looked very promising too.

So anyway, this is the 1926 Ben Travers farce about… well, about the things that farces are usually about – hapless men caught in compromising positions with scantily clad women in a general milieux of overbearing wives, downtrodden husbands and insolent domestic staff. It’s not important.

Written in three acts, this production has one interval after the first act and to be fair if they hadn’t broken they might have got away with it but the first act is mainly set-up and never really felt as though it got into gear before it was time to go back to the bar.

Phil thought the cat and dog gags were overdone, and not particularly funny in the first place. In fact, he was ready to leave at the interval and found himself chatting to some others who felt the same.

Thankfully others in the Whingers’ party were more mindful of the fact that this was Andrew’s day and attempted to inject some positivity into the conversation.

But having been persuaded that the second, longer act might achieve some sort of pace Phil was persuaded to return. Fortunately it did pick up, but only intermittently. Still, Phil managed to laugh a few times, particularly at the golf-club-down-trousers schtick and a very funny turn by Victoria Yeates as the local flag seller who’s no better than she ought to be.

One of the problems is that the set is just too darn wide, letterboxed for the Menier stage the cast rush from side to side, taking too long to get across to any of the many doors necessary for farce. There is of course an awful lot of rushing but the pace is still too slow. Shout “last orders” in front of the Whingers and you’ll really find out what pace means.

The Whingers had no problems with the cast (and particularly liked Hadfield, Edward Baker-Duly who played Ashley in Gone With The Wind – The Musical! and Neil Stuke who is to play CJ in in the surely ill-advised remake of The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin) nor really with the direction nor any other element. It’s just that…

Phil, of course, is spoiled: he saw the famous Tom Courtney/Peggy Mount/Nicola McAuliffe/Ian Ogilvy/Lionel Jeffries revival back in 1982 and he hadn’t even enjoyed that. Perhaps he just doesn’t like farce. He’s all for a bit of silly-twittery (just read the WEW for proof) but Rookery Nook creaked like the Whingers’ ancient joints.

Andrew, on the other hand, had been bought so many birthday drinks that he didn’t give two hoots about anything.

10 Responses to “Review – Rookery Nook, Menier Chocolate Factory”

  1. jmc Says:

    Have the Whingers seen any of the films of the Aldwych farces, made in the 1930s? They have the original stars – Tom Walls, Ralph Lynn, Robertson Hare and Yvonne Arnaud – and are side-splittingly funny because the performers are so immaculate. We haven’t got the actors who can do this stuff these days, and the plays are admittedly of their time.

  2. jamesg Says:

    ill advised remake I would agree with….though I think it was The Fall and Rise…rather than the other way round!


  3. This sounds right up my street, actually. I love a good farce. Or a bad one. I saw a rather flat production of “Bedroom Farce” in Cornwall and still had a fairly nice time. I wonder, have the Whingers seen the ultimate farce: “Noises Off”?


  4. Saw this last night and agree 100% with the Whingers – it’s very good when it kicks into high gear, but that’s not often enough.

  5. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    Congratulations jamesg, you spotted this week’s deliberate mistake.

    The Whingers of course rarely rise after they fall. Hence the error.

  6. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    Wilhelm yes both Whingers have seen “the ultimate farce” Andrew loved it (NT production) Phil was iffy (original production – second cast).

  7. Chris Says:

    Oops! we saw the Sunday show this week and loved it! Thought the two hours flew by! True, the Chardonnay helps. But we were still laughing at bits on the train home, which has to be a good sign.

  8. Ian Shuttleworth Says:

    Lynda Baron was palpably *doing* Peggy Mount, wasn’t she?

    And was I not paying attention, or were two of the exits/entrances provided by the script not actually used?

  9. JohnnyFox Says:

    I don’t think Lynda Baron’s exits/entrances have been used since Arkwright last pursued them …


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