Review: Bedroom Farce

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It was Grey College’s sublime Fountains Hall that provided the backdrop for ‘Bedroom Farce’ (originally performed in 1975), the latest production by Grey College-affiliated Phoenix Theatre Company. With sunlight slanting through the slit windows of the high, vaulted roof of Fountains Hall on this hot summer’s day, the scene was set for this rendition of the quintessential 70’s play. Part kitchen sink drama, part farcical domestic rom-com, the play revolves around four couples and three bedrooms. 

Indeed, the cast was confident and remained in character throughout

Put on by Hidayat Malik, Dom Symonds and Amy Forster, three first-time directors, this would always be a logistically complex play to stage, especially for those new to the game. However, while there was room for improvement, altogether the production was strong. Three beds were set out on stage with bedstands and other domestic apparel scattered around to create an allusion of three distinct bedrooms, with the action passing from one of these to the other in rapid succession. The audience was thus given an intimate look at the private lives of the couples, each drawn from different social backgrounds and with contrasting, and often conflicting, personalities, expertly represented by a compelling cast. Indeed, the cast was confident and remained in character throughout, delivering the cutting satire of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s original script completely deadpan, deploying – usually – very convincing accents. 

Standout performances came from Flynn Harris Brannigan, with his lighthearted and entertaining rendition of Malcolm, alongside Penny Cairney-Leeming, whose performance as Jan was full of charisma and clear stage presence. There was also the notable decision to cast in the (male) role of Nick, which added an interesting and highly successful dynamic to their scenes. Ultimately, the cast proved able to effectively represent the toxic disintegration of the various relationships – and reveal the austere reality behind the façade of domestic happiness and social status – through cutting sarcasm and rich humour. Genuinely hilarious at points, the punch lines did occasionally fail to land, with some sections coming across as forced. However, the production proved a solid attempt at balancing the divergent elements of social critique and humorous farce, which provides the central tension of the play. Notable also were the lavish but realistic costumes, detailed set design and the subtle and perfectly timed use of lighting and sound effects. 

Evidently, the cast and crew of Phoenix Theatre Company have a great deal to be proud of

Evidently, the cast and crew of Phoenix Theatre Company have a great deal to be proud of, with this production of ‘Bedroom Farce’ revealing the breadth of talent in Grey College and making clear the strong potential for even further success going forward. While there was still some refining of the acting needed here and there, all considered this performance proved an interesting and effective take on a complicated play, and what is clear above all else is the strong provision of aptitude and potential at Phoenix Theatre Company. 

Image by Phoenix Theatre Company

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