16 June 2011

Three Farces at the Orange Tree

Three Farces is just what it says it is, three farces in one evening.

John Maddison Morton wrote all three farces which made them refreshingly similar in mood and style, though they are quite distinct from each other. These are three plays in a series not one play in three acts.

He wrote them in Victorian times which makes them comedies of class and manners.

To keep the continuity going the Orange Tree uses the same cast for all three farces. There were some familiar faces among them too, like Stuart Fox and Jennifer Higham, so that was reassuringly familiar too.

The only unfamiliar thing was finding myself in the second row (rather than the front) due to the eagerness of the audience to get in and my own difficulties with the 65 bus.

Slasher and Cracker opens the evening. These are the names of the gentlemen chasing the daughter and sister of a recently rich ex-army man who finds them both wanting in valour.

The contrive a plan to demonstrate their worth that leads to them fighting a rigged duel. This is a farce so all ends well but there are lots of laughs before we get there.

There is a quick interval to change sets, costumes and to rest and then it's An Unwanted Intrusion.

Another rich man with a daughter to get rid of rescues a drowning man from his pond only to have that man committing to stay with his rescuer in the rescuer's house, a bit like The Man Who Came to Dinner.

Here the comedy comes from the eagerness of the rescued to inveigle himself in to his rescuer's home when that is clearly not what the rescuer expected or wanted.

This relies heavily on the exuberant acting of Edward Bennett who meets the challenge with relish.

The last play, Grimshaw, Bagshaw and Bradshaw is more typically farcical with mistaken identities and a room with three door through which people come and go with bewildering frequency. It is also typically funny.

There are some nice touches during the evening as the Orange Tree maintains its own tradition of engaging well with its audiences. We even had an entertainer to sing to us between the plays and who also chatted to us during the intervals.

There is nothing particularly clever about any of these plays but that's not their point. They are three different farces that keep you laughing all evening, which is exactly what three farces should do.

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