We may call the French a funny (peculiar) race, but, to my knowledge they have never perpetrated anything like Bedroom Farce.
The implicit joke of this comedy from 1975 is that what everyone is desperate to do in the bedroom is get a good... night's sleep. But there are plenty of explicit jokes as well. A man who has hurt his spine slides out of bed but can't get back in. An elderly couple decide to eat pilchards in bed, and soon the room stinks of fish. Even better, a married woman's male friend unexpectedly arrives when she is in the bedroom, undressed; too panic-stricken to tell him not to come in, she dives under the duvet.
People who think humour has gone downhill since women stopped putting their hands on their hips, who admire the femininity of girls who squeak and go to pieces – these are the ideal audience for Alan Ayckbourn's play, a veritable graveyard of comedy.
One of the four harried husbands stays up all night assembling a piece of flat-pack furniture that turns out crooked and soon collapses. As if that was not hilarious enough, he is rattled by his wife's attempts, at the same time, to have a serious conversation about their sex life in which she guilelessly reveals that she is sometimes bored by his efforts and starts thinking about whether to carpet the hall.
One might feel more indulgent toward Bedroom Farce if its director or young actors showed any flair for the genre. But Loveday Ingram's production, played on a set that is vulgar without being funny, is flaccid and slovenly.
The young actors time their jokes too slowly or too fast, and clearly anticipate the terrible things that are going to happen to them. Doors slam, characters wave their arms and screech, all in the futile aid of trying to convince us to care about the clearly temporary separation of a childless, cretinous pair.
The actor in the role of Trevor, the male cretin, is handicapped by lacking the quality that would explain Trevor's impenetrable egotism and his success with every woman he meets – devastating good looks.
I began the evening irritated at the cute, old-codger routine that Richard Briers has been practising for 30 years but soon became grateful for his and June Whitfield's confident underplaying. The set shows their bedroom on a level above those of the other couples – artistically, they're several levels higher than the rest.
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