Two Into One, Menier Chocolate Factory, theatre review

4.00

 

It's been quite a week for octogenarian legends in Theatreland.  We've had Angela Lansbury returning to the London stage after a forty year gap with her delicious Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. And now look at what Ray Cooney is up to at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

The 81 year old master farceur has not only directed this peppy, smartly-cast revival of his Thatcher-era hit, Two into One, but he's also performing in it as a doddery, profoundly incompetent waiter who is nonetheless a dab hand at collecting hush money and inclined to go into Kung Fu action if any slur is cast on his age. 

These days, it's “flipping” and the expenses scandal that fuel farces about politicians as in the recent  Duck House where the MP and his spouse had to make a frantic attempt to pass off their London flat as a main home.  In Cooney's 1984 romp, by contrast, we're to understand that out-of-town big-wigs stay in the kind of swish Westminster hotel where Home Office minister, Richard Willey (no, you read that right) has brought his wife for a break. 

But while she is out at a matinee of Evita, the philandering smoothie-chops (spot-on Michael Praed) is planning to have two hours of adulterous bliss with one of the PM's young secretaries.  The task of booking another room, under an assumed name, falls to George Pigden, his sorely tried PPS who bungles the whole thing badly with the result that the love-nest is next door to the marital suite.  The complications start to go seriously crackers when, on returning early, the sexually frustrated Mrs Willey (glorious Josefina Gabrielle) develops the hots for the PPS, a podgy little celibate soul who lives with his mother.  

The play is supposedly set just before a debate about a bill that would outlaw pornography.  But Cooney makes surprisingly little comic capital from the potential exposure of political hypocrisy.  There's an anti-vice campaigner “Chilly Lily” Chatterton (a redoubtable Northern battle-axe in Jean Ferguson's amusing performance) who is on the prowl but the plotting never allows her to pose a sufficient threat to the minister's career and the stakes, at least in this regard, aren't raised. 

Instead, you have the pleasure of watching deliriously daft hanky-panky, cleverly counter-pointed in adjoining mirror-image suites (the witty sliding design is by Julie Godfrey) and executed with engaging vim and dexterity by a crack team.  Pallid man-boobs flecked with soaps suds from the bubble bath he has taken with his boss's randy wife, Nick Wilton is a joy as the long-suffering PPS, an improbable object of passion who is forced into every convolution of desperate cover-up on Willey's behalf  – to the extent of feigning an affair with a Foreign Office tea boy. 

The farcical proceedings never become merely ingenious, though, because they are always warmed by radiantly silly high-spirits and the dialogue is littered with endearingly groan-worthy gags and verbal cock-ups typified by the hotel manager's censorious declaration: “There's far too much sex in this hotel and I'm not having any of it”.

To April 26; 020 7378 1713

Arts and Entertainment

photography
Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

art
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Latest stories from i100
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.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible