Review: Boeing Boeing at Theatre Royal Winchester

Review: Boeing Boeing at Theatre Royal Winchester

by Martin Brisland.

The 1960s classic play Boeing-Boeing is listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the most performed French play throughout the world. Written by Marc Camoletti, it is a farce, a type of comedy that seeks to entertain an audience through situations that are generally highly exaggerated, ridiculous, absurd and improbable.

The English-language version was first staged in London in 1962 where it ran for over 2,000 performances and it’s easy to see why. This slick revival is fast paced, witty and very funny. The excellent cast are first class and don’t miss a beat.

It centres on the penthouse of Parisian bachelor Bernard, played by John Dorney, who thinks he has the perfect way of life – polygamy! He’s got himself engaged to three different air hostesses who are unaware of each other and scheduled things so that they never meet.

Largely thanks to his tolerant, long-suffering maid Bertha, his three paramours remain blissfully unaware of each other’s existence. Isabel Della-Porter as brash American air stewardess Gloria shrieks, whoops and hollers in all the right places, Nathalie Barclay puts plenty of vivacious, Italian style passion into her role as Gabriella and Jessica Dennis’s Gretchen is as stereotypically comedy ‘Germanic’ is it gets.

Maid Bertha subtly carries the whole charade along, covering for Bernard and cooking the right food for each lady. With some of the best lines, Jo Castleton offers a masterclass in droll comedy timing.

Bernard’s life gets very bumpy, though, when his friend Robert comes to stay, and complications such as bad weather and a speedier Boeing jet disrupt his careful planning. Soon, all three stewardesses are in the city simultaneously and catastrophe looms.

In this production, Bernard’s Parisian penthouse contains seven wall to wall doors, which are in constant use. As the evening goes on, Robert is drawn into protecting his friend from the three women’s wrath. Without his help, poor old Bernard would surely have suffered heart failure, as even with it, the red-faced Bernard looks close to apoplexy at times. Bernard could come over as a total bounder, but he genuinely adores all the women in his life, and wants to keep them all happy. Or at least that’s what he tells himself.

Bedroom farces are pretty much from a previous time and attitudes change. However, this intelligent play is still relevant to today’s world as it challenges our perceptions of what makes a good relationship. The jokes never let up, the laughs come at a relentless pace and it’s a delight seeing a bit of schadenfreude come to pass. Give yourself a treat and catch it this week. You won’t regret it.

Boeing Boeing is at the Theatre Royal Winchester until Saturday 30th July. Box Office 01962 840440.

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