Boeing-Boeing, Playhouse, Liverpool
Thursday 08 January 2009
Fuelled by their success during last year's European Capital of Culture festival, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse are flying high with a co-production of Marc Camoletti's French comedy Boeing-Boeing. Matthew Warchus has freshened up his chic concept which first aired in London in 2007, then took off on Broadway. What the production lacks in substance, it gains in style, with Rob Howells coolly colour-coded set corresponding to the uniforms, accessories and personalities of the three air hostesses. Each of them, unbeknown to the others, is engaged to Bernard, the suave bachelor playboy who manages his international harem with the help of a hefty tome of airline timetables.
When Robert pays an unexpected call on Bernard he becomes ensnared in the "nineteen-sexty sex" shenanigans. Here the two men are not friends but cousins – a smart move since the roles are taken by two brothers. As Bernard, Martin Marquez may have less of the urbane charm that you might expect of a man who handles so much baggage so smoothly but his country coz Robert is given a deliciously deadpan portrayal by John Marquez, complete with the Welsh accent that the bumpkin from Aix supposedly brings to Paris. Susie Blake's stroppy Gallic maid, Bertha, more dour than ironically philosophical, keeps the finely-tuned arrangements airborne for Bernard.
As the routes begin to overlap, the journey becomes increasingly bumpy and there's a danger of collision as Bernard's three jet-setting lovers make unscheduled stop-overs in his apartment on the same evening.
Sarah Jayne Dunn, winging her way out of Hollyoaks, makes a confident stage debut as the all-American Gloria. You can just see her as a hockey mom. Barking her terms of endearment, Josephine Butler presents a fearsomely dictatorial German Gretchen while Thaila Zucchi's purring Italian Gabriella shows her claws when she's crossed. Bernard may think he's the captain but really it's the women who run air-traffic control around here.
The farce is crudely formulaic but, after the rather long set up, events in the second half spin engagingly out of control. The final dance, choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, is one of the best curtain calls I've ever seen.
Now launched on an extensive national tour, Boeing-Boeing will be touching down at a theatre near you until the end of April. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.
At Liverpool Playhouse (0151-709 4776)to 17 January then touring
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