The Adelaide Repertory Theatre are ending the year with a French farce by Marc Camoletti, Don’t Dress For Dinner, directed by Norm Caddick. Camoletti’s best-known farce is Boeing Boeing, and was also seen recently in Adelaide. Caddick set’s up a very fast pace for his cast and it doesn’t let up for a moment. The English version is a major rewriting by British playwright, Robin Hawdon.
Bernard has invited his mistress, Suzanne, to stay for the weekend while his wife, Jacqueline, is visiting her mother. He has also invited his friend, Robert, to provide an alibi, should one be needed. To complete the romantic encounter he has hired a Cordon Bleu chef, Suzette, to provide a sumptuous feast. What could possibly go wrong? Yes, it is a farce, and so just about everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, beginning with Jacqueline cancelling her visit when she hears that Robert is coming, and Robert greeting the wrong Suzy, and ending with the arrival late in the evening of Suzette’s jealous and solid as a rock husband, George. Peter Davies is no stranger to farces such as this and, as Bernard, he is right at home in familiar territory. Davies takes Bernard from calmly planning a dirty weekend through to blind panic and a desperate series of lies a he tries to save his marriage and still get together with Suzanne. He is hilarious as he hovers between moments of relief as each lie seems to sort out his problems, followed immediately by collapsing as things go topsy-turvy again. Georgia Stockham plays his wife, Jacqueline, who planned to find a chance to spend time with her own lover, Robert. She, too, adds to the hilarity, becoming jealous, and furious, thinking that she is being two-timed when Robert introduces Suzette as his girlfriend, having mistaken her for Suzanne.
Tim Taylor is the put upon pig-in-the-middle, Robert, caught up in the whole web of trying to find a chance to be with Jacqueline, but having to pretend Suzette is his girlfriend, and later his niece, and unable to explain to Jacqueline that he is only doing it because Robert has backed him into a corner. Taylor pulls out all the stops, finding every scrap of comedy in the role. Rose Vallen is the kooky cook, Suzette, who sees a financial advantage in helping out the philanderers, at fifty Euros a pop. Vallen extracts every possible laugh out of the script Caryn Rogers plays Bernard’s lover, Suzanne, and she injects plenty of fun into the role when Suzanne finds that she is expected to pretend to be the hired cook, as well as be the waitress for the dinner party at which she was supposed to be a guest. Stuart Pearce, as George, creates a character suitably confused by the convoluted explanations that he is given when he arrives to collect Suzette. He has only a brief appearance, but makes the most of it.
The play in its entirety is an ensemble piece, relying heavily on the cast being capable of split-second timing to maintain the pace, essential in a farce, and to generate larger than life characters without going too far into caricature. This production succeeds in all of that, keeping the audience laughing from start to finish. Don’t miss this one.