Fans of English farce would be delighted that leading Adelaide Community Theatre Company Therry, has dusted off a 1950’s knockabout comedy and given it air in 2019. Many might claim this play by Ray Cooney and Tony Hilton which ran for four and half years at Whitehall Theatre, still works today and there are those who would refute that claim and that it has little modern relevance.
But be that as it may, Therry manifestly hangs their hat on the former for the pleasure of its fans.
The nonsense plot runs thus. A wealthy man, Jonathan Hardcastle (Brian Godfrey) wishes to give his deceased friend’s son an amount of 10,000 pounds, but as one would expect, such a sum has a strict condition that the recipient must be the only surviving relative of his deceased’s friend.
Billy Hickory Wood (Ben Todd) turns up to claim his inheritance but it turns out that he is not the sole beneficiary- there are three more Hickory Woods with hands outstretched for the money, which of course provides the complexity and turmoil so necessary for such a Ray Cooney farce.
The set designed by Paul Cinneididh and director Jude Hines, is an English drawing room beset with many doors needed for speedy entrances and exits.
Jude Hines took over the direction of the play following Sue Wylie’s withdrawal due to other “professional commitments,”having no hand in the auditioning process, and furthermore just prior to the commencement of rehearsals. Ms Hines’ production was a well- orchestrated, cohesive affair which built up to a mad, confusing finale in the last scene as all farces must do. It tended to be a tad slow in the opening scene, which may have been quickened with a little more confidence with lines here and there.
But the pace cranked up well as it moved into the heart of the puzzle “How many Hickory Wood sons were there?”
As Billy Hickory Wood, Ben Todd was outstanding, running offstage as one character and returning seconds later as another, doing all the prat falls, pulling faces, doing a drunk piece and rushing about at an exhausting pace. Peter Davies played the scheming and crafty Charlie Barnet with skill and good comic timing as did David Sinclair the conniving butler Jugg, who always had a shifty motive up his sleeve.
Jonathan’s sister Maxine Grubel, is a self-important Amy Hardcastle, while Simon Lancione plays the snobbish art dealer Clifton Weaver a little stiffly but likeably and Greg Janzow is funny as the rather muddly solicitor Arnold Piper.
As Billy Wood’s wife Winnie, Ashley Penny is a riot-playing her role hysterically for the greater part, and we first meet Jonathan Hardcastle’s daughter Cynthia(Francesca Zaga jewska) enjoying the company of Jugg the butler behind a screen. Brian Godfrey plays the
wheelchair bound Jonathan Hardcastle.
All in all, this was a night of hilarious fun for the lovers of English farces and particularly this play, one of the most popular and revived of the Whitehall farces of the 50’s and 60’s.