You are probably all familiar with the old saying, if you want a job doing properly then send a better, sensible person to do it for you. Hence on Friday 15th May, whilst I was hanging round the alcohol at Cocktails in the City, the lovely Catherine went to press night of Boeing Boeing at Oldham Coliseum. Here's what she thought - beware though, she wrote this in a giddy mood after watching Eurovision, so there are a LOT of puns. DON'T SAY I HAVEN'T WARNED YOU...
Boeing Boeing touched down last week at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre for its opening night after originally flying into the West End for a seven year run during the 1960s. The play navigates the confusing love life of Bernard (Robin Simpson), a Parisian architect who has not one but three air hostess fiancés. Set during the early 1960s when a jet set lifestyle was still in its infancy, Bernard is able to take advantage of international scheduled flights to plan out his love life and create a dating system he describes enthusiastically as being mathematical “perfection”.
Luckily for Bernard his three fiancées all have names beginning with ‘G’: there’s Gloria from America (Laura Doddington), Gabrielle from Italy (Maeve Larkin) and Gretchen from Germany (Sarah Lawrie). All three also wear colour-coded clothing that makes it easy for not only Bernard, but also the audience to identify his different fiancées. The play takes off without a glitch as the coordinated comings and goings of Gloria, Gretchen and Gabrielle are as hassle-free as a place in first class. However, Bernard’s dating system soon meets turbulence when stormy weather and faster planes conspire to bring his system into free fall.
The first half of the play really begins to pick up the pace when Gloria takes off for America and Gabrielle flies in from Italy. Not long after this, Gretchen touches down in Paris from Germany and Bernard faces the uneasy prospect of entertaining both fiancées at once in his apartment - without either knowing about each other’s existence. From this moment on, the farce soars and things soon start to unravel faster than a transatlantic flight on Concorde. Bernard enlists the help of his best friend Robert (played by Ben Porter) who is visiting from the provinces, to act as a comic foil. He also needs his housekeeper Bertha (played by Gilly Tompkins) to help keep his love life airborne.
Because the action unfolds in one room, some elements of the plot are a little implausible at times. Gloria, Gretchen and Gabrielle would definitely be able to hear each other in the apartment and they would also be able to hear Robert and Bernard’s high-pitched, Carry-On-esque outbursts during the closing scenes. But this is a farce, and by its very nature should not be taken seriously. What prevents Boeing Boeing from becoming farcical is the on-set choreography as the different actors coordinate their moves seamlessly between the seven doors of the Parisian apartment. The energy of the choreography and comic performances by the cast are exciting and engaging throughout. The set itself is also impressive, with a convincing view of the Eiffel Tower illuminated in the background to remind the audience that this is Paris in the swinging sixties.
Boeing Boeing has been adapted for Oldham Coliseum Theatre by director Robin Herford from Swiss-born Frenchman Marc Camoletti’s play written in 1960. The original was a huge hit and it appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding the title of the most-performed French play ever. It’s well worth watching this classic hit at the Oldham Coliseum theatre before it’s Boeing Boeing gone.
- Boeing Boeing is at Oldham Coliseum Theatre until 6th June. Photos used in this post are courtesy of Joel C Fildes.