A smashing airing of seldom seen classic, writes Penny Flood
It's summer in Miramar on the west coast of France and it's not just the sun that's getting three young men hot and bothered. Kenneth (Patrick McNamee) , Alan (Alex Bhat), Bill (William Bellchambers) and Kit (Joe Eyre) have come a small hotel to brush up their French. Kenneth has upset things by bringing his sister, the gorgeous, pouting Diana (Genevieve Gaunt) who claims that the only thing she's good at is making men fall in love with her, and how right she is, shamelessly playing one off against the other. Poor boys they don't know what's hit them.
Pic -Richard Davenport
This hilarious, innocent romp was Terence Rattigan's first play. When it was written in 1936 it was a big hit playing for more than 1,000 West End performances, and this is a terrific revival. It's a slight and silly plot, but Rattigan's skills as a writer, combined with perfect casting and skilful direction by Paul Miller make it work. Rattigan got his idea for this after being sent to a similar establishment by his father. He was expected to follow his father in the diplomatic service, and we can be grateful he took up writing instead.
Sarah Winter Pic - Richard Davenport
All the action takes place around a table where the boys have breakfast and gather for lessons from Monsieur Maingot. A large part of the first act is carried out in Franglais, which happily seldom rises above GCSE level, so it's not hard to understand. If you don't always understand (which I didn't) it doesn't matter because the way it's translated makes it even funnier.
Monsieur Maingot is played by David Whitworth, who excels himself in the second act when he returns more than slightly inebriated from a costume ball dressed as a Scot in a kilt and tries to dance the cancan.
Alex Bhat: Pic - Richard Davenport
There are other characters; Brian (Tom Hanson) who is only there for the sun, sea, fast cars and girls, so is happy to offer advice to the lovelorn trio, and Jacqueline Maingot (Sarah Winter) who assists her father in running the hotel. Lacking Diana's vampishness, she's shy, but all that testosterone under her roof has sparked something in her- but will the object of desire ever realise
It finally comes to fisticuffs even though Kit, who was going to the ball dressed as a Greek Evzone (a Greek ceremonial soldier), is still wearing a full skirt and shoes with red pompoms. The skirt, which has rather more petticoats that that of a real Evzone, flounces nicely but doesn't come below his knees so his socks and suspenders are in full view. No opportunity for a laugh is overlooked, especially when Diana walks in on them as they're rolling around the floor.
Eventually male bonding takes over, and the boys stand up to Diana but it doesn't bother her. She's heard that an English aristocrat expected at any minute, and that's a whole new twist.
French Without Tears is at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond until 21st November.
Box office email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8940 3633.
October 21, 2015