‘Out of Order’ was written in 1990 by that ‘Master of Farce’, Ray Cooney. This very funny farce is the sequel to ‘Two into One’. Once again, it finds the randy politician, Richard Willey, back in the Westminster Hotel. Certainly one of Cooney’s best with an almost non-stop supply of laughs; it was definitely the most physically demanding!
Winning a Lawrence Olivier Award for ‘Comedy of the Year’, the play has been translated into 40 languages including Hungarian and Chinese. Ray started his career as an actor aged 14, and as a playwright aged 29. Now at the tender age of 85, and with an OBE from the Queen, he is still writing his unique farces, having sold an incredible 100 million theatre tickets on the way. His son, Danni, and his family live in Australia looking after Ray’s play interests.
This two-hour, award winning farce by the Darlington Theatre Players can be seen at the Marloo Theatre, 20 Marloo Road, Greenmount each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 pm until 15th July. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm on the 2nd and 9th July.
The scene: it is 8.30 in the evening, in suite 648 on the sixth floor of the swanky, Westminster Hotel.
The luxurious room has Bohemian style, cream wallpaper with fine red and lime stripes. The huge window, with a balcony outside, faces over the river to the Houses of Parliament (very good artwork). The deep pink, velour curtains are impressive with an imposing, matching floral display. There is the hotel’s passage, room door, a door to the bedroom, and another to a cupboard. There are a couple of plush chairs, a long narrow console desk with a ‘phone and centre stage, a profile chaise longue (properties by Lesley Sutton). The set design is by George Boyd, and (by necessity) very strongly constructed by George, Duncan Beatty, Ray Egan, Michael Hart, Neroli Sweetman, Taneal Thompson, Belinda Beatty, Jenny Trestrail, and Owen Davis.
My initial impression was that the set looked a little empty, however, by the end of the play every inch of the stage had been employed as the cast went through their dangerous acrobatics. The very large window had faulty sash cords – intentionally – which caused the window to collapse on several occasions. Stage manager, Guy Jackson had the very demanding and responsible task of giving us this entertainment without killing the cast. Very clever, convincing, and brave of the performers.
The whole play took place in real time – two hours – with Parliament’s Westminster chimes subtly played every quarter of an hour. Quality lighting and sound thanks to Mike Smale.
As always, the costumes by Marjorie DeCaux were varied and perfect, from a bride and a waiter, to ‘nothing’, everything was covered.
Appropriately, an orchestral version of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ plays as the curtains open.
Junior Tory Minister, Richard Willey (yes, Dick Willey! Luke Miller) is on the ‘phone, explaining to his wife Pamela (Taneal Thompson), how he is in a British Museum reading room catching up with paperwork. As he hangs up, a beautiful young woman in a black basque appears; she is a typist / secretary for the opposition Labour Party. This is Jane Worthington (Ellie Bawden). Thankfully, Jane’s jealous husband, Ronnie Worthington (Blake Prosser) does not know where she is.
There is a knock on the door; it is the disbelieving and exasperated Hotel Manager (Graham Miles), who remembers Willey and his women from a previous visit (the ‘Two into One’ farce). The poor Italian maid (Rachel Vonk), who has only a smattering of English, repeatedly tries her best to turn down the beds – without success.
Willey, cuddling Jane, opens the curtains to admire the view before they make mad passionate love. He is horrified to discover a corpse (Dominic Masterson) jammed under a collapsed window frame. Jane suggests they call the police, but that would reveal their scandalous position. Willey ‘phones one of his minions, private secretary George Pigden (Ryan Perrin) to help him dispose of the body. Pigden is a nervous mummy’s boy, who has seen little of life, relying upon the security of his Mum’s nurse, Gladys Foster (Jenny Trestrail) for guidance.
Willey then foolishly seeks advice from the devious and mercenary waiter (Ray Egan).
Mountainous layers of pandemonium seem to develop from every little molehill. A mere passing of a comment results in further mayhem. Will Willey get the passion that he so desperately seeks? Is George Pigden capable of coming to the rescue?
Neroli Burton’s direction is inventive and tight. She has kept the pace belting along, with plenty of surprises. The cast have great chemistry. Unusually for a farce, the main character, Willey, is stiff upper lipped and generally unflappable – mainly because he dumps all of his problems onto others. Many of the cast have never played in a farce before, indeed two of the major players Dominic (the body) and Ryan (Pigden) are quite new to the stage, and both did an outstanding job. Dominic was amazing as the corpse that was tossed around. Poor Pigden was out of his depth, not knowing how to escape the clutches of his manipulating MP boss.
The whole cast knew exactly what was expected of them, some had to panic and run around, but most had to play it calmly as though the disasters were normal daily happenings.
Congratulations to the two or three daring people who put their bodies on the line, to help the success of this hilarious show. There were belly laughs from beginning to end.
This play is deservedly one of Marloo’s fastest selling shows, with a few performances already sold out. Try to get tickets quickly.