Love's a Luxury
Guy Paxton and Edward V. Hoile
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
Sam Walters originally directed Love's a Luxury at the Orange Tree in 1988. He has now decided that this 1940's Wodehousian farce deserves another airing, this time as the annual shared play with Alan Ayckbourn's Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
In Walters' hands, and played in the round at his theatre in Richmond, a farce is likely to reach its peak. This is the case as the cast here are well-drilled within Pip Leckenby's packed living room.
The plot, set amongst theatrical types, is even thinner than the standard farce. Charles Pentwick (Philip York) is a producer who escapes to the country after a near miss when his wife discovers that he has innocently (???) spent a night with a former Windmill girl, Fritzy Villiers, played by Roisin Rae.
Two lies set up the fun. At that point, it is all hands to the pumps as the good ship Pentwick begins to take on water faster than the Titanic. Eventually, as Mrs Pentwick turns up, the panicking Charles, Dick his son, Bobby, Fritzy and Molly the maid all bale like mad in their efforts to recover what was anyway an innocent error.
Inevitably, all live happily ever after with three delighted pairings - two having met only the night before - cooing their love.
The costumes designed by Christine Wall are appropriate, especially Bobby Bentley's. Jason Baughan commences in the most garish uniform imaginable - tie and trousers in mustard yellow and a matching jacket with an element of blue. As things go wrong for his impresario friend, Bobby switches to a dress that Laura Ashley might have designed in the forties or fifties.
Philip York, Jason Baughan and Claudia Elmhirst (as Molly) are all excellent, as is Fritzy's toy terrier. They are all upstaged by Roger Sloman, dressed in khaki shorts with snake-belt and shrunken tank top, as a twitchy camper appropriately called Mr Mole. His determined innocence is a delight and he is the authors' one really original invention.
Love's a Luxury is not a great play but Sam Walters and his cast do a good job in delighting his audience and wringing so many laughs from it. No doubt he will continue to do so in both Richmond and Scarborough.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher