Review: Farcicals, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Farcicals is made up of two different one-act plays, featuring the same characters and cast. They are the summer’s lunchtime plays at SJT, written for the first time in a while by Alan Ayckbourn, and appear on select evenings as a double bill.

If you only see one then Chloe With Love is the obvious choice. Both are farces and deliver exactly on what that medium promises, but Chloe With Love has an air of subtlety about it that makes it more enjoyable than the second piece that makes up the double bill.

In this first piece, Teddy and Lottie’s marriage is in a bit of trouble. Penny and Reggie, neighbours and friends, are there for the couple. Reggie promises he will keep his friend Teddy on the straight and narrow, Penny decides to turn Lottie into a mysterious sexbomb that Teddy won’t be able to resist. Teddy is true to form. There are some questionable morals in both pieces about the importance of fidelity in marriage and it always makes one squirm when the audience laugh at jokes about women having ‘too many shoes’ rather than laughing at the ridiculous – and sexist – idea that women have too many shoes, but Ayckbourn is clever in Chloe With Love. He maintains the frenetic pace needed for farce, while doing enough to not make it a piece of work that bludgeons the audience over the head.

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The subtlety is abandoned in The Kidderminster Affair. Teddy has had a liaison with Penny, his best friend’s wife and his wife’s best friend. Not smart. It is possibly the false idea that this is amusing that kicks the action off on the wrong foot. That said, the elements of farce make for a very funny couple of plays and if you want a masterclass in comic acting, then look no further than Kim Wall, who plays Reggie. The whole cast are really quite exceptional, although the other three tip over into playing farce as farce, as opposed to grounding their performances firmly in reality, but Wall is a joy to behold. Ayckbourn has called these little comedies inconsequential. They could have been more so, but they are an attractive little diversion.

To Sept 27 in rep.