David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Culture
"Ignorance," observed Lady Bracknell, "is like a delicate exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone." Bill Walker, Tory MP for Tayside North, proved the point by castigating Wildcat's Bedfellows for supposedly ridiculing the memory of the late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn. Not, of course, that he had seen it. Ever ready to make a crisis out of a drama, the Sun leapt to Fairbairn's defence, yelling: "IT'S SICK TAKING THE MICK OUT OF SIR NICK."

Co-author David MacLennan denies this. The character of Sir Christopher Vainwean could be that of any number of right-wing Tories. "It's just that Sir Nicholas Fairbairn had the bad taste to die before we opened."

The brouhaha wasn't confined to the Tories. The local Labour party was none too happy with the the play's upwardly-mobile Labour candidate, Tony Bland (played by Alan McHugh, left), who turns up at a Tory selection meeting bearing an uncanny resemblance to Tory hopeful, Antonia Blandish...

Long before British politics collapsed beneath the tidal wave of corruption and public cynicism, Dario Fo was convulsing mainstream audiences with political farces like Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Reading Andy de la Tour's sublime NHS farce Safe in Our Hands on the tube one morning, I was forced to take advantage of a Kleenex proferred by a fellow passenger as tears of laughter cascaded down my cheeks. Both writers obey the basic law: you can do anything you like, so long as the characters' actions are ruthlessly logical. The moment an audience wonders why someone is lying, hiding or whatever, you've lost them. The action should be ludicrously funny; the reasoning must be rooted in reality.

Funny Money, Ray Cooney's latest, opens shortly with the old "wrong suitcase" plot once again. But if it's cross-dressing, two foreign maids, a case of Semtex and a long-lost son you're after, Bedfellows has them all.

`Bedfellows' opens at the Tricycle Theatre, London NW6 on Monday (0171-328 1000)

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