Alan Ayckbourn described Bedroom Farce as "a bedroom play which avoids those more predictable elements of bedroom behaviour, namely sexual activity and sleeping". As the velvety strains of Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time in the World" purr out across the three double beds on stage, it is clear we are in for a very long night in the life of four couples.
We see, in turn, an elderly couple (Ernest and Delia) preparing to go out for dinner while fretting about their unstable daughter-in-law; a fresh-faced couple (Malcolm and Kate) preparing for their first housewarming; and a world-weary wife (Jan) tending to her husband (Nick) who is bedridden with back pain.
Their relative calm is broken by the whirlwind of Trevor and Susannah, who first wreck the housewarming by fighting, then destroy any remaining chance of a peaceful night as Susannah seeks solace with her parents-in-law, Ernest and Delia, and Trevor shares his woes with ex-girlfriend Jan, and Nick.
The first half of Tenth Planet's production is a little slow-moving, enlivened only by Kate's (Ava Burton) amusing attempt at getting dressed for her own party in a bed already covered with guests' coats, amid constant interruptions. In the second half the action and comedy pick up as the nightmare couple's histrionic behaviour begins to expose the cracks in the other couples' relationships.
Kate and Malcolm fret that they are boring, leading Malcom to utter the immortal line "Tomorrow I'll come to bed wearing a silly hat". Ernest and Delia are forced, for the first time in years, to confront matters of the "B-E-D", and Jan rapidly loses patience with her very trying patient Nick.
Thirty years on from its premiere, Ayckbourn's plotting and one-liners are as ingenious as ever. Refreshingly, he gives most of the best lines to the women, exposing the men as a hypochondriac, an old fool and a petulant child.
Ben Watson's rubbery, Jim Carrey-esque mugging as Trevor goes too far; better are Annabel Leventon's Delia - an understated foil to Harry Meacher's hammy Ernest - and Burton's energetic Kate opposite Ben Farrow's sulky Malcolm. The flyer promises a "night hotter than an electric blanket" but the cast do not fully grasp the wit of Ayckbourn's script, making it more like an early night with a lukewarm hot-water bottle.
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