Farce – with its panic-propelled exits and entrances and its heavy dependence on doors – should not officially work in in-the-round theatres.
But at the Orange Tree, which has a rich festive tradition of staging the works of Feydeau and his followers, they make mincemeat of that notion. Hurtling on and off in four directions, the actors simply mime all the frantic openings and closings, while a highly conspicuous stage-manager provides the sound effects. It's a deliciously rum, counter-intuitive procedure and it compounds your pleasure at the escalating mayhem once again here in this blissfully funny revival by Sam Walters of Feydeau's Sauce for the Goose.
The original title is Le Dindon (“the turkey”) and the fowl play (so to speak) typically arises from frustrated and foiled philandering. The piece is nicely renamed in Peter Meyer's canny translation to indicate how this is also a story of female revenge against the sexual double standard. Portrayed with captivating wit and spirit by Beth Cordingly, Lucienne is a beautiful, happily married bourgeois woman who is plagued by the attention of two admirers – David Antrobus's wonderfully frazzled, womanising Pontagnac and smoothie playboy Redillon (a spot-on Damien Matthews).
Only if she were ever presented with proof that her husband has been unfaithful, Lucienne proclaims, would she succumb. Given that her spouse is Stuart Fox's lovely, bumblingly vague and good-natured Vatelin, this looks unlikely. But then the one adulterous fling of his life reappears in the formidable shape of of the Germanic, self-dramatising (and married) Heidi (excellent Rebecca Egan) who threatens suicide unless he agrees to see her.
Hence the assignation in the Hotel Ultimus and one of those delirious middle acts in Feydeau where the entire cast descend upon some louche establishment and fiendishly complicated shenanigans ensue. Walters and his crack cast expertly pace the spiralling lunacy that involves a multiply over-booked room, mixed-up bags, and two entrapping alarm bells secreted under the bed. An elderly military doctor and his doddery stone-deaf wife (touchingly played by Auriol Smith) keep unwittingly setting these off. Her horrified bafflement – like someone watching a crazed, inexplicable silent movie – makes the resulting havoc all the more hilarious.
The last act is no limp coda to this, but anticlimactic only in the sense that, when offered the woman of his dreams, the shagged-out playboy is unable to rise to the occasion. A treat.
To 2 February, 0208 940 3633