‘It Runs in the Family’ is a wacky farce set in a hospital. It was written by London born playwright, Ray Cooney OBE, who although almost 85 is still writing. Cooney has been described as one of the world’s best farce playwrights.
Ray Cooney began his theatrical career as a boy actor in 1946. He acted in several Whitehall Farces with Brian Rix, including ‘Dry Rot’, before starting to write his own plays.
This hilarious play was scripted 30 years ago, and is now being presented by The Wanneroo Repertory Inc. at The Limelight Theatre, on Civic Drive, Wanneroo. It can be seen every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 pm until Saturday 29th April. There is one matinée at 2.00 on Sunday 23rd April.
It is the present day in the Doctors’ Common Room on the third floor of St. Andrew’s Hospital, London.
Rob Vincent’s set had to be solidly built, due to the amount of abuse it was to receive from the flow of people and wheelchairs. It did not falter once thanks to the set constructors Rob, RJ Smoulders, Gordon Park, David Browning and Roger Oakes. Numerous props, some medical, were required – a tricky demand on Beth Cowley, Lorretta Gibbs and Narelle Barbely. On the rear wall of this common room was a set of sliding windows, showing a large building across the car park behind – realistic artwork from Carol Keppler. There were two pairs of swing doors and a couple of standard doors.
Through one door was a bathroom complete with toilet. When opened, all of the doors had the set continued into the wings – excellent. Often one see a door open onto a black, unlit void. Well done lighting designers Wally Fry and Jacob Anderson (operator Jillian Betterton). Convincing sound effects from RJ Smoulders.
The stage manager, Helen Smoulders and her assistant Tim Riessen, had several fast moves to make with a wheelchair, and ensuring that costume changes were smooth. The whole show ran slickly.
Dr. Mortimore (Gordon Park) is rehearsing his major speech for the International Conference of Neurologists, when Jane Tate (Fiona Forster), a young, unmarried ex-nurse arrives. Jane, who had leave the hospital ‘suddenly’ two decades earlier, announces that her 18 yrs. old son, Leslie (Oliver Bourne), is desperate to meet his father.
Into the room walks senior surgeon, Sir Willoughby (Les Lee, with a brilliant impersonation of Sir Lancelot Spratt) who informs Mortimore that the conference starts in ten minutes. Mortimore’s wife, Rosemary (Colleen Hopkins), rapidly followed Willoughby into the room. It is at this point that the doctor suddenly realises he is the boy’s father. Not wanting his boss or wife to know of his past indiscretion, he panics and so creates a tortuous story that just gets worse as he tries to dig himself out of the hole.
The common room gets extra hectic as Dr Connelly (Chris McCafferty), who is busy rehearsing for the hospital pantomime, enters in search of costumes, Dr Bonney (Chris Juckes) and the Matron (Kerry Goode) push in a gurney of gifts for the sick children. Whilst pushing a senile patient, Bill (Roger Oakes) in his wheelchair, the nursing sister (Catherine Dunn) shows the local police sergeant (Peter Boylen) into the room. He has arrived looking for a junkie who has escaped custody. Even more confusion happens when a little old lady (June Adams) takes a seat and announces that she is someone’s mother.
Will Mortimore’s wife find the truth about the doctor’s past love life?
Farces more than any other genre divide the audience, some laugh uproariously whilst other cringe at the ghastly routines. This one was particularly well handled and brought plenty of laughs.
Joyce Gilbert, Shelley McGinn. Meg Considine and Loz Haynes of the wardrobe department were kept busy, having to find various specific uniforms.
The script was one of Cooney’s poorer ones, with the first Act being a little too manic, with little relief; however, the second Act was a slower pace and worked much better. The second half had plenty of unfortunate incidents, mainly politically incorrect, but who cares? The actors were extremely funny and carried the whole pandemonium off beautifully.
The director, Susan Vincent, has years of experience guiding actors in many genres. In this show, with her wonderful team, she revived the aging script and had the audience splitting their sides. Two local kings of farce, Gordon Park (manic) and Chris Juckes (confused) worked so well together; it is always a pleasure to see their shows. Every member of the cast just jumped into the situations and gave it their all. Chris McCafferty in his various guises brought many laughs, and even in her ‘later life’ dear Kerry Goode was not averse to dropping her underwear! Great sports and wonderful team work. Oliver is quite new to farce, but was hilarious.
This show has been playing mainly to full houses – I was lucky and got the last seat on the night I saw the show.
Only a couple of shows left, but try to catch it. Have a good laugh, you deserve it.