Theatre review: Bedroom Farce

Posted on: 12 April 2010 by Mark O'haire

Laurence Green reviews Alan Ayckbourn’s 1977 comedy revived in a new production at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

Don’t be fooled by the title of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1977 comedy Bedroom Farce, revived in a new production directed by Peter Hall at the Duke of York’s Theatre, this is no sex romp, nor is it a bedroom farce in the style of Feydeau or Ben Travers. In fact, although there are three beds on stage at the same time the nearest any of the protagonists get to having sex is an illicit kiss!

The action of the play is confined to a single night where four couples offer us the chance to look at four different stages of marriage: Ernest and Delia going through the well-worn motions of an anniversary celebration; Jan and Nick under stress because Nick is bedridden and can’t go to the party at which Jan will meet an old flame; Susannah and Trevor have a problem relationship tends to spark off another and involves unwelcome calls in the middle of the night in which nobody gets much sleep.

Ayckbourn’s spotlight on the trials and tribulations of a suburban marriage is like most of his work psychologically truthful, yet this is not one of his best plays. As a comedy misunderstandings and marital spats it has a flimsy plot and superficial characterisation - we never know much about these couples except what we witness over the courses of the night, while the humour  is only spasmodically funny. However in one of the more treasonable comic moments Trevor says to Susannah in the middle of a blazing row, “I used to be pacifist until I met you!”. elsewhere Ayckbourn offers us jokes about sardines, bad backs, as well as some startling profundities about human relationships.

Jenny Seagrove and David Horovitch as Delia and Ernest respectively, a s long-married couple who address each other with military precision, have all the best lines, while Rachel Pickup as the neurotic Susannah, Orlando Seale as Trevor, the other half of this imploding marriage, and Sara Crowe and Tony Gardner as Jan and Nick respectively certain bring credibility to their rather underwritten roles.

By Laurence Green

Where: Duke of York’s Theatre

When: plays until 10 July

Box Office: 0844 871 7623

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