Theatre review: A Little Hotel on the Side - The old jokes are the best, unlike lovers

3.00

Paramours scuttle, sets spin and coincidences pile up in a peppy revival of a vintage farce

Monsieur Pinglet wants hanky-panky. That goes with the terrain. Treated to a Bath Theatre Royal revival by director Lindsay Posner, A Little Hotel on the Side is, after all, a French farce, aka L’Hotel du libre échange, co-authored by Georges Feydeau and Maurice Désvallières.

So, complete with bushy whiskers and dangling watch fob, Richard McCabe’s Pinglet is your classic, 1890s bourgeois: superficially respectable but lusting after his neighbour’s wife. He pounces as soon as he sees his chance, and Madame Paillardin (Natalie Walter) – being miffed with her spouse – agrees to a shady hotel rendezvous. Thanks to a pile-up of absurd coincidences, half their social circle are checking in as well. Cue much scuttling, slamming of doors,  and the climactic runaround of a police raid.

Farce is, paradoxically, composed of shock and stock formulas. Even while the characters are stifling shrieks of horror, the frightful pickles out of which they’re scrambling are – for the today’s audiences, at least – vintage set-ups. Indeed, if you’ve seen the hotel in Feydeau’s better-known A Flea in Her Ear, you might wonder if you left that via a revolving door that has merely whirled you round and in again.

This doesn’t stop Posner’s production being entertaining. John Mortimer’s English adaptation is peppy. McCabe is on a roll, with a deadpan, rapid-fire style of delivery that’s simultaneously tinged with cod melodramatic flamboyance. Striking a wannabe cavalier pose, he hoists one stout leg, with a thud, on to the coffee table. His rotund Pinglet makes a droll double act, at home, with Hannah Waddingham. She towers over him as his wife, whom he’s forever badmouthing, under his breath, as a harridan.

One can’t help feeling, deep down, that most of Feydeau and Désvallières’ characters are more ghastly than the zippy, comic pace allows. Actually, the central Second Act, in the hotel, feels rushed at points – maybe a little under-rehearsed because Posner’s originally billed co-director Cal McCrystal (of One Man, Two Guvnors fame) has vanished from the credits.

Richard Wilson makes a cameo appearance, mildly leering as the maître d’hôtel. The plot twists tighten most enjoyably in the final act, as Pinglet wriggles out of trouble, and the spinning sets (designed by Michael Taylor) combine grandeur and madness, with tottering stairwells spiralling skywards.

Now, Coriolanus is rife with unfaithfulness too, except not of the sexually romping variety. Starting out as a rioting mob, the starving Roman masses accuse Shakespeare’s titular army commander of conspiring with his fat-cat, fellow patricians. When this same man’s military prowess saves them from a Volscian invasion, Coriolanus is back in favour, with commoners supporting his consulship bid. They turn against him again, nevertheless, and, in retaliation, he swears allegiance to his Volscian former foe, Aufidius.

Coriolanus breaks that oath – moved by his mother pleas – and ultimately faces assassination, for being perfidious.

Briefly imported this week by the Edinburgh International Festival, the Beijing People’s Art Theatre production was not exactly faithful to the text. The dialogue, in Mandarin, was pared down and translated back into plainer English (not Shakespeare’s iambics) for the surtitles.

Still, visually, this is an epic production, with a 60-strong cast. In a gilded breastplate, Pu Cunxin’s sturdy Coriolanus wields a huge silver sword in slow motion, as the grey-robed hordes brandish staves and swarm over a long flight of steps. Though the fight choreography’s sometimes slack, the lead actors blend stylization and naturalism, and the costumes blur ancient and modern – Jing Hao’s Aufidius having a touch of rockabilly-going-on-punk, collar up, in leather and chain mail.

In addition, co-directors Lin Zhaohua and Yi Liming have heavy metal bands on the sidelines, thrashing away. Musically, this might seem a bit 1970s, or in danger of turning into “Tommy: the Rock’n’Roman Tragedy”. Yet the aggressive bursts of drumming and electric guitar are often persuasively in tune with the Bard’s macho antagonists – and not without humour.

Coriolanus himself comes over as more long-suffering than arrogantly scornful regarding the mutinous plebeians. Make of that what you will. This is a troupe supported by the cultural ministry of the People’s Republic of China.

The Broadway musical named [Title of Show], is less likely to inspire headbanging, unless you find it unbearably vacuous. Showbiz fans will surely be jauntily toe-tapping at the Landor Theatre’s London fringe premiere of this teasing biomusical by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, in which buddies called Jeff and Hunter (here played by Simon Bailey and Scott Garnham) write a biomusical called [Title of Show] that eventually transfers to Broadway. The repartee is mix of the cute and the risqué. The songs – calculatedly derivative-cum-satiric – get catchier. Robert McWhir’s shoestring-budget production, with just four chairs and a pianist, is winning for its intimacy and its crack cast having fun. 

‘A Little Hotel on the Side’ (theatreroyal.org.uk) to 31 Aug; ‘[Title of Show]’ (landortheatre.co.uk) to  14 Sept

NEXT WEEK Kate Bassett is embroiled in another farce: Ben Travers’s Thark at the Park Theatre, London

Critic’s choice

Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor are electrifyingly sexy, wittily suave and moody in Nöel Coward’s Private Lives, at the Gielgud Theatre, London (to 21 Sept). The Bristol Festival of Puppetry  is taking over various venues (to 8 Sept), with international companies, and The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey at the Brewery Theatre. It’s not all for kids, but caters for tots and upwards.

 

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice