Review: Move Over Mrs Markham, by Ray Cooney and John Chapman, The Jill Freud Company, St Edmunds Hall, Southwold

Move Over Mrs Markham, by Ray Cooney and John Chapman, The Jill Freud Company, St Edmunds Hall, Southwold, until August 13 and Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, from August 16 – 20

Farce is probably the most exacting form of drama for any cast and director. Pace, energy and timing of lines and action are everything. This production scores highly on all fronts and is a real treat to watch.

Mistaken identities, ludicrous situations, characters in various states of undress and risqu� remarks abound in this well-written play by two masters of comedy.

There are some well-worn jokes but they are delivered with such aplomb and with great timing by this scintillating team of hard-working actors that you cannot help but laugh for the umpteenth time.

The plot starts simply enough with Joanna Markham (Penelope Rawlins) anticipating attendance at a dinner with her publisher husband, Philip (Clive Flint).

In their absence, Joanna’s friend, Linda, wants to use the flat for a liaison with an admirer while Linda’s philandering husband, Henry (Michael Shaw) - Philip’s business partner - has similar designs in terms of his latest conquest.

In the midst of this marital infidelity is Alastair Spenlow (Jamie Chapman), an outwardly gay interior designer who harbours a strong heterosexual urge to be in bed with the maid, Sylvie (Helen Armes).

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As Linda’s would-be lover, Walter (Richard Bates), and Henry’s date, Miss Wilkinson (Hayley Doherty), converge on the scene all hell is let loose with lies and subterfuge galore.

Into this mayhem walks Olive Harriet Smythe (Jill Freud) a dotty Norfolk dog owner and author of the best-selling Bow Wow books which Philip and Henry would dearly love to publish.

The play, using a clever set designed by Maurice Rubens, starts quietly enough with few signs of the farce it is to become as the groundwork is set. But it soon sparks into energetic life with director, Richard Frost, obtaining outstanding performances all round. A very entertaining night at the theatre and one not to be missed.

David Green.

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