In Her Ear
Feydeau's 1907 romp is virtually the dictionary definition of French
farce, and this revival is almost as good as you could possibly hope
for it to be.
establish that any reservations I have are not based on failings but on
the fact that it isn't always as fully delightful as it is at its best
moments, which are good enough to make you greedy for more.
in all French
farces, a situation is set up where people who must not run into each
other are almost certain to run into each other - if the reasons they
mustn't meet have something to do with adultery, so much the better
- and we can just sit back and watch how long doors can open
close and people can just miss each other before the inevitable.
plot of A Flea
In Her Ear defies summary. Suffice to say that a whole gang of people
descend on a sleazy hotel ('Only married couples come here.' - 'But not
at the same time.'), either to achieve assignations, prevent
assignations or catch others in assignations, and that for reasons that
made sense at the time, several of the men are using the same name.
enough, Feydeau tacks on the complications that one character has a
cleft palate and can hardly be understood, one is a Spaniard with a
fiery temper and impenetrable accent (not much political correctness
here) and the most innocent of the men looks exactly like the hotel
you get the
idea. There's a lot of rushing about, trying to hide, mistaking
identities and, almost incidentally, trying to get a bit on the side.
Eyre wisely takes his time setting things up in the opening scenes,
aware that the confusion to come later won't be funny unless we, unlike
the characters, always know what's going on.
going, the speed picks up as it should - and here is where my one
reservation comes. At many moments, and with some of the actors, things
reach the near-cartoon level (exaggerated doubletakes, extreme panic,
choreographed physical gags) that is farce nirvana - but not always,
and a little too often you sense that a particular bit wants to be
played faster or bigger than it is.
this is very
much an ensemble piece, starring honours have to go to Tom Hollander
for playing the two characters who look alike, achieving some
extraordinarily speedy offstage costume changes, and doing a pretty
good Ronnie Corbett impersonation along the way.
Lisa Dillon is lovely as a wife upset because her husband seems to be having an affair before she's gotten around to hers, Jonathan Cake captures the cartoon physicality most consistently as her would-be lover, and Tim McMullan is droll as a butler who doesn't stand on ceremony.
Return to Theatreguide.London home page.
Review - A
Flea In Her Ear - Old Vic 2010