Friday, 22 October 2010

2 into 1 - Review (3)

Oxford Times review
by Christopher Gray
Veteran farceur Ray Cooney has assisted The Mill in the thorough updating of Two into One, his 1981 rib-tickler on political life, to take account of the election — sorry, non-election — of the Cameron-Clegg coalition and even the arrival of a new Labour leader. “Nothing can go wrong,” says one character, with the misplaced confidence that is so much a feature of farce. Another replies: “That’s what Ed Miliband told his brother.” The play remains a recognisably accurate portrait of the Parliamentary scene, though Cooney stretches credibility beyond breaking point, I fear, with the absurd notion — a central conceit in the plot — that a Tory politician could possibly be sharing his hotel bedroom with a man in his twenties.
The steady build-up of humour in this production is brilliantly achieved by the cast, under director Ron Aldridge. Just when you think the situation cannot get any dafter, another delicious improbability occurs to keep the laughter coming.
At the centre of the fun is a bungling parliamentary private secretary George Pigden (the admirable Nick Wilton) who is recruited by his boss Richard Willey (Jeremy Gittins) to assist in arranging a tryst with a tasty married secretary, Jennifer Bristow (Rebecca Reaney).
Urged to book a hotel suite under the assumed name of Sir Charles Easter, he instead manages to register as Dr Noel Christmas, under which unlikely name he goes on to become involved in all sorts of madcap capers. An extra dimension to the plot is introduced when he becomes the object of amorous attentions by his boss’s wife, Pamela (Elizabeth Elvin).
For reasons that I cannot begin to explain, it also appears that the versatile Pigden is having a gay affair with a tea boy, Ted, from the Foreign Office. On cue comes the arrival of Mrs Bristow’s husband — the conveniently named Edward (Neil Andrew) — ready (stripped to his underpants) to be mistaken for this mythical young man.
As I indicated, the acting is all of the highest standard. Adding to the comic confusions are a frosty hotel manager (Harry Gostelow), a grasping waiter from the excellent Brian Godfrey, and a Spanish chambermaid (Lynette McMorrough) whose efforts to change the beds are regularly thwarted by their near-continuous use.
Finally, there’s a fine comic turn from the theatre’s artistic director Sally Hughes as a tough-cookie anti-porn parliamentary campaigner. If the play has one slight fault, though (and I hope that the hugely experienced Mr Cooney will forgive my telling him his business) it is that Lily Chatterton is not given quite enough to do.

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