Farce has shades of Fawlty
Funny Business By Derek Benfield Directed by Ngaire Ngatuere for Pahiatua Repertory Theatre May 19 – 28 Reviewed by Richard Mays
A play called Funny Business had jolly well better be funny – and this Pahiatua Repertory production hits the laugh jackpot.
The sequel to a play called Bedside Manners, produced at the Globe about 10 years ago, the set up sees the bungling Ferris still minding the country hotel while his sister takes a break.
It’s a cheeky and robust performance from Graeme Vial who by dint of almost wilful misinterpretation, manages to muck up a tryst between two first-time would-be adulterers.
On a stage split three ways with a central lobby and bedrooms either side, the unfortunate Ferris is pulled from pillar to post patching up his mistakes and pandering to guests, while trying to work out which of them is the journalist doing a piece on the hotel.
He is ably abetted by Michael Moran as Henry, and Emma Pelling who impresses as the slightly ditsy and naive Judy. And then Judy’s short-fused husband, played by Ryan Little, shows up.
There is a lot of changing rooms while Vanessa Coogan’s Angela knocks back the gin and Ferris tries to keep up appearances. Talitha Vandenberg does a nice job as Mr Johnson, an old codger who manages to complicate proceedings.
Not frenetic farce this, but its deft touches and over the top shenanigans make keeping a straight face impossible. It’s easy to see shades of Fawlty Towers in this play, except Ferris is a much more amenable and daffy host than the uptight Basil.