Review: Bang, Bang, by Georges Feydeau, adapted by John Cleese, Colchester Mercury, until March 11.

Richard Earl and Caroline Langrishe - Bang Bang, adapted by John Cleese at Colchester Mercury Theatr

Richard Earl and Caroline Langrishe - Bang Bang, adapted by John Cleese at Colchester Mercury Theatre - Credit: Archant

It’s fast, impeccably played, gloriously improbable and very, very funny. Director Nicky Henson’s production of John Cleese’s slick updating of a French classic is an object lesson in how to play farce.

Oliver Cotton, Richard Earl and Caroline Langrishe - Bang Bang, adapted by John Cleese at Colchester

Oliver Cotton, Richard Earl and Caroline Langrishe - Bang Bang, adapted by John Cleese at Colchester Mercury Theatre - Credit: Archant

The secret is in the casting. You get great actors and allow them to immerse themselves in an increasingly outrageous situation and let them create magic.

In Bang, Bang the comedy is somehow always incidental to the action. This is comedy played as drama. Even asides to the audience are delivered in character rather than by the actors themselves.

There are no laboured or heavily signalled gags – instead it’s all about storytelling. If you get the joke – great and if you miss it, never mind, another one will be along in a couple of seconds. John Cleese has adapted Feydeau’s script to emphasise the story and the humorous potential of human relationships.

The dialogue is suitably sharp and at times surprisingly salty. It’s delivered with a satisfying light touch by a hugely experienced cast led by a trio of comic masters in Caroline Langrishe as Leontine, Oliver Cotton as her wayward husband Duchotel and Richard Earl as her would-be suitor Dr Moricet.

Caroline Langrishe, Richard Earl and Robert Neumark Jones - Bang Bang, adapted by John Cleese at Col

Caroline Langrishe, Richard Earl and Robert Neumark Jones - Bang Bang, adapted by John Cleese at Colchester Mercury Theatre - Credit: Archant


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The story revolves around the fact that Duchotel seems to be a hunting enthusiast but his frequent trips away may be more to do with hunting for female company rather than bagging a pheasant. The action is seen through the eyes of his increasingly exasperated wife Leontine as Dr Moricet tries to convince her that she should be getting her own back.

The joy of the play is not in the complexity of the story but in the easy and joyful way it is told. Set and costumes are period perfect and help anchor of the absurdities of the plot to a believable world.

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Although the play is set in 19th century France, the marital machinations and the language used have a very contemporary feel to them and allows the audience to lose themselves in this world. The actors and director Nicky Henson make it look simple but we know that farce, as good as this, is very hard to achieve. The masterstroke is making it look easy. A joyous night at the theatre.

Andrew Clarke

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