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Keep an Eye on Amélie

Georges Feydeau, translated by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin
Part of The Judi Dench Collection
(2007)

This is our first review from the newly released Judi Dench Collection. The six DVD set features a variety of work chosen from the Dame's appearances on the BBC across quarter of a century starting in 1966.

Over the next few months, we will review the whole set of eight programmes, which includes comedies with her late husband, Michael Williams as well as plays by Strindberg, Chekhov and Rodney Ackland. There is also a feature from 2003 during which Dame Judi talks to Richard Eyre about her career.

The hour-long comedy Keeping an Eye on Amélie, first shown in 1973, shows the great farceur Feydeau at his best, helped along by an English version translated and adapted by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin.

All of the classic elements are there: a slightly loose but charming heroine; a confirmed bachelor with a bad wig and worse moustache chasing an inheritance; her lover; his lover; a rich godfather; a randy, monocled prince with a duelling scar; a trouserless man and a trio of comic policeman.

To add to the fun, there are also swapped letters and silly accents, not to mention Bill Fraser playing the lady's ex-policeman father as only he can.

Often TV comedy disappoints but on this occasion there are enough laughs to satisfy anybody. These peak halfway through the play as the future Dame hides under the bed of her supposed fiancé (played by Patrick Cargill), while that gentleman desperately tries to get rid of his unwanted but very passionate lady friend (Helen Cherry).

Judi Dench in the title role provides a series of ripe asides (or more accurately underneaths) before a wonderfully conceived ghost is called upon to scare away the lady.

After much misunderstanding and double-crossing, a marriage is contracted with unexpected consequences for all, the most surprising of which is that at least one couple seems destined to live happily ever after.

Patrick Cargill and Dame Judi ensure that exactly the right, light touch is delivered throughout this charming revival.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher