Thursday, 12 June 2008

Boeing-Boeing, June 12, 2008 ***

By Marc Camoletti
Comedy Theatre, June 12 to July 6, 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3

Boeing-Boeing could be called “Bonk-Bonk” these days because it involves one man juggling three (gorgeous) lovers.

In Marc Camoletti’s enormously successful 1960 French comedy, Bernard (Shaun Micallef), a sophisticated Parisian architect, keeps three “fiancees” – all blindingly beautiful air hostesses - on the fly simultaneously.

 None knows of the others until their flight schedules - that he so scrupulously records - collide and all three arrive in his Paris apartment on the same, fateful night.

The play has all the elements of French farce: improbable situations, stereotypical characters, exaggeration and confusion, opening and closing doors and innumerable surprise entrances and exits. It is designed to be impeccably timed, fast and furious with Bernard and his hapless, old school mate, Robert (Mitchell Butel), living on a knife-edge to avoid the women meeting each other.

The play is cute but very dated and needs to be viewed as a period piece. This production has some successes, some big laughs and a few significant flaws. The first half has some flat spots and there is too much shouting in place of genuine, chaotic, comic energy. English directors, Hannah Chissick and Matthew Warchus, have not managed the rhythm, pace and dynamic of the play so, at times, the actors, rather than the characters, seem out of control.

The three air-hostesses are highlights, with their broad cultural stereotypes and parodic accents. Sibylla (OK) Budd’s entrance as Gretchen, the bolshie, German Brunhilde, is gob smacking. She plays her as a sexy, blonde, Teutonic dominatrix. Helen Dallimore is like an athletic cheerleader as the ditzy, all-American Gloria and Rachel Gordon is pouty and passionate as Italian, Gabriella.

Strangely, the French characters are not portrayed with absurd accents although this might provide more comedy, glamour and exoticism. Micallef looks awkward as the cool Frenchman until Bernard loses control of his environment, at which point Micallef lets loose with his comic, ungainly goofiness.

Butel plays the dopey, provincial Robert as a confused country boy agog at his luck being trapped in a madhouse filled with gorgeous gals. Judy Farr misses the mark with her portrayal of Bertha, the maid. Bertha, the forbearing, critical, over-worked but perfect servant appears simply grumpy and rude. This role should have some of the great sight gags and double takes.

The intermittent hysteria and erratic rhythm make this a patchy, albeit entertaining, show.

By Kate Herbert

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