don’t dress for dinner

‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’ is a two-act farce by French playwright, Marc Camoletti. Marc also wrote the highly-successful ‘Boeing-Boeing’. This madcap, 30-yr.-old English adaptation of the play, by Robert Hawdon, became London’s longest running comedy. There are two main genres of farce, those which have doors opening and closing, with people just missing each other, and the other being scripts where many lies are told and confusion results. This wonderful adult romp is of the second style. Join the fun at the Harbour Theatre, Mosman Park Memorial Hall (Camelot Theatre), 16 Lochee Street, Mosman Park. The show has curtain up at the earlier time of 7.30 pm until Saturday 3rd March. There are Sunday matinées on 25th February and 4th March at 2.00 pm. The scene is a converted farm building on the outskirts of Paris. The set shows the stylish sitting room of a holiday home. With a bar at the side. There is a staircase to stage right, and four doors leading from the lounge to various animal ‘dwellings’ now used as bedrooms. The walls are limestone blocks (great effect). The rear wall has a white dresser, a window with lace curtains, and a view of the garden beyond (fine artistic work by Melissa Bassett). Well selected props and set trimmings by Grace Hitchin, Ann Speicher, Julie Mackay and cast. Brian Mahoney’s splendid set design was solidly built by Phil Redding, David Eggleston, Jim Davies, Ian Calvert, Matt Cuccovia and Geoff Ross. The show was smoothly stage managed by Jane Sherwood, and her assistant Marina Cappola. Lighting design with difficult rigging and operation was by Rob Tagliaferri. Clever change of colour temperature when the lounge room lights were switched off and evening glow took over. Sound design and smooth operation by Vanessa Gudgeon.

When randy, middle-aged Bernard (Gordon Park) learns that Jacqueline (Kirstie Francis – superb) his wife of many years is going to visit her sick mother, he arranges for his fashion model mistress, Suzanne (Maree Stedul) to come around for the weekend. With only frozen pasta in the fridge, Bernard hires a cordon bleu cook, Suzette (Tasha Jane) to cater for the two of them.

Then, as a stroke of genius, to act as an alibi, he invites his French best man, Robert (Tim Fraser). Just as she is about to leave, Jacqueline answers the telephone to find it is Bon Appetit, the caterers, confirming their booking. Then, when she learns that Robert is coming to stay, she cancels her trip to mother – after all Robert is her lover and she wouldn’t want to miss him. Bernard is panic stricken. When you think things cannot get any worse, jealous George arrives (Paul Cook – his best performance yet).

On occasions when actors are required to have a foreign accent, have an argument or talk in a reverberating set – one with few soft furnishings or drapes – then the dialogue can become a little garbled and a slower delivery is advised. Unfortunately this play had all three of these factors to contend with, so a little slower would help. In fairness, the actors did have clear enunciation, plenty of emotion, were word perfect, and gave their delivery at what would normally be classed as a perfect pace, but the circumstances were against them at times in this very verbal farce. A bit of a shame as the whole cast gave performances well above average. Director Ann Speicher is a first class comedy actor, and so I was not surprised at what a great job she did, guiding the cast through the very tricky script. At one spot the audience gave Tim extra applause for his complex dialogue. Gordon is a master at farce, and was supreme again here. Tasha played the Cockney tart immaculately, and Maree was funny as the poor mistress who had no idea what was going on. A fun show, with laughs from beginning to end. Congrats all round.