Reviewed by Linda Edwards
Adelaide Rep’s final offering for the year, “Don’t Dress for Dinner”, would be a great English bedroom farce if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s French. The original version (called “Pyjamas Pour Six”) was written by popular French playwright Marc Camoletti, best known for “Boeing Boeing”, and the English adaptation was penned by Robin Hawdon. In the hands of experienced director Norm Caddick and a strong cast, it makes for an hilarious night of entertainment for Adelaide audiences. The two plays share many similarities, including a string of lies and increasingly unlikely deceptions orchestrated by Bernard and aided unwillingly by his best friend Robert. This Adelaide Rep production and the recent St. Jude’s production of “Boeing Boeing” share Tim Taylor in the role of Robert.
In typical farce fashion, the premise is flimsy and rather silly, and revolves around a planned weekend of dalliance for Bernard and his mistress Suzanne while his wife Jacqueline is away at her mother’s. The plan begins to go awry when Jacqueline learns that Robert is also arriving for the weekend, and since she is having an affair with him, she decides to stay home. To explain Suzanne’s presence, Bernard coerces Robert into pretending Suzanne is his mistress, but unfortunately he mistakes the hired cook Suzette for Suzanne, and the result is the typical chaos bedroom farces are famous for. Peter Davies and Tim Taylor play philandering husband Bernard and best friend Robert respectively, and both have the exquisite timing required for a farce of this type. Their energy is unflagging, and their enjoyment of the hectic and increasingly panic-stricken proceedings is obvious. Georgia Stockham is a powerhouse and is completely believable as Jacqueline, who both suspects her husband is having an affair and eagerly anticipates furthering her own secret affair with Robert.
One of the real plum roles in the play is that of the hired Cordon Bleu cook Suzette, who plays along with the string of deceptions the men devise to keep themselves out of trouble – as long as they pay her, of course. Rose Vallen more than does the role justice and transforms from agency cook to a supposed sexy Parisian model with relish. Her physicality and expressions keep the audience in stitches. Caryn Rogers plays the tall and glamorous Parisian model Suzanne well, and while Stuart Pearce appears only briefly, he does a fine job as faithful husband George. Director Norm Caddick is one of the most experienced directors in Adelaide and has an obvious understanding of the farce genre and the level of energy required. The result is a tight production that makes the most of all the comedy the script allows.
The production values are also high and the set design of the rustic renovated farmhouse by Lisa Kennewell is perfect. “Don’t Dress for Dinner” has always rivalled “Boeing Boeing” in popularity, with the English version running for six years in London after its UK premiere in 1991. It has not lost its appeal for fans of farce and this production will not disappoint.