Bedroom Farce: World Premiere ReviewsThis page contains reviews of the world premiere production of Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in June 1975. It is not a complete set of reviews as the aim of the page is to offer a flavour of how the play was originally received and to offer a cross-section of opinion. All reviews on this page are the copyright of the respective publication and / or author and should not be reproduced. Extracts from reviews of the National Theatre production of Bedroom Farce can be found here.
Note: A number of the reviews refer to Bedroom Farce as Alan Ayckbourn's 17th play. There is no obvious reason for this as at the time it was then considered and advertised as his 18th play. For accuracy, Bedroom Farce is now actually considered his 19th play (due to the inclusion of Jeeves into the official canon).
Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce Can't Fail
"Only Alan Ayckbourn knows why his latest comedy is named Bedroom Farce. The title has the virtue of being unpretentious, but its austerity stops a mile short of justice.
The premiere in Scarborough's Library Theatre last night saw the playwright sitting anxiously on the steps of an aisle - there was, of course, not a vacant seat in the house. He looked worried until the end, though he could not have failed to notice the delight of the audience around him.
The laughter which came thick and fast all through the evening sent Bedroom Farce the way of so many others. It cannot fail.
Skilfully set, Ayckbourn's "farce" is a wonderful sophistication of the genre. Doors do not bang as actors chase around the stage, missing each other by seconds. It is the plot itself which keeps up that sort of pace, and a quick change of lighting to switch the scene is all that is needed to keep the pot boiling.
The comedy is that of the people we meet every day who take themselves too seriously. In the roles of the king and queen of them all, Christopher Godwin and Polly Warren could do no wrong. They slipped quickly and easily into their characters, and by the end of the evening a sneeze from either would have been funny.
The two provide the link and foil to the three other couples of the play and their bedrooms. Their doomed marriage stands in the way of everybody's peace and quiet - and those of Stanley Page and Stephen Mallatratt most effectively.
They break up a party at the house of one couple, divide to keep each of the others awake all night, and finally return to the scene of the party for a short-lived reconciliation.
They wreak havoc everywhere. Only the elderly parents, Stanley Page and Heather Stoney, will recover quickly. Their impregnable obliviousness to anything much out of the ordinary - the source of so much humour - survives intact, if a little battered.
As Ayckbourn romps boldly through his colourful caricatures depicting varying degrees of self-obsession he stumbles only once, and that is when briefly faced with painting comparative normality, which seemed to embarrass actors Bob Eaton and Eileen O'Brien into uncomfortable exaggeration.
Despite a liberal sprinkling of slapstick, the "farce" relies on the comedy of character. Each actor takes his turn to invite the audience to laugh at his absurdity.
Not a line was lost, not one invitation refused."
(Scarborough Evening News, 17 June 1975)
Hilarious Study Of Marriage in Author's 17th Play (by Desmond Pratt)
"The twentieth season of Theatre in the Round has opened with Mr. Ayckbourn's new play - astonishingly his 17th in 16 years.
This one is earmarked for its London debut next spring, by Peter Hall for the Proscenium Arch Littlyton [sic] Theatre of the National Theatre on the South Bank.
It is a signal [sic] honour to the remarkable talent of Ayckbourn, rightly regarded as the post-war Noël Coward.
He has an acute observation of people and their multiple vulnerable points, an uncanny ear for the subtleties of conversation. Yet even when he is showing us foolishness, he is humorously aware of the inadequacies of man and woman, and above all else his characters are warm and lovable human beings.
It is not sufficient for Ayckbourn to confine Bedroom Farce to one bedroom - he must have three all on stage at the same time. Not for him one couple in bed - but four married couples in an interrelated masterpiece of comedy.
It is a hilarious study of these marriages - an elderly one which has reached the dead point of no return - a mere matter of sufferance - and the three younger ones living at the flashpoint of temper and on the edge of marital volcanic eruptions.
The play is about incompatibility, non-comprehension, intolerance and misunderstanding as the nerves of each pair rub jaggedly against each other and their awkwardness in attempting to put their errors right on wherever the author shows a world of understanding.
There is a hectic pace under the deft direction of the playwright himself and the performances are beautifully timed and varied in their comments on various streams of consciousness.
Stanley Page is the resigned elder partner with his garrulous sophisticated wife of Heather Stoney and the three young couples are all urgently played for every possible laugh by Stephen Mallatratt and Janet Dale, Bob Eaton and Eileen 0'Brien and Christopher Godwin and Polly Warren."
(Yorkshire Post, 18 June 1975)
Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce (by Stephen Dixon)
"'Bedrooms tell you a lot about people,' somebody says reflectively at the beginning of Alan Ayckbourn's newest comedy at Scarborough's Library Theatre. This funny, truthful little play is set entirely in various bedrooms and by the end we have indeed been told a lot about the eight characters involved. The pivotal figure, Trevor, inarticulate and charmless, goes to a party given by friends, then visits the home of a former girl friend. His neurotic wife, Susannah, more voluble but almost as disruptive, takes her problems to her parents-in-law.
The occupants of each house descended upon by one or other of this unpleasant couple are put in the position where they have to face up to their own petty sexual conceits or inadequacies. Kate feels moved to confess to her husband that very occasionally she is uninterested in bed, that her mind is on other matters. Like what? Like for instance whether to stain the floor or put dawn carpets. Malcolm is angry and hurt. 'You mean to say that while I've been giving my all, you've been thinking about bloody floorboards? Next time I come to bed I'll wear a funny hat so you won't be bored.' Sex still has an ugly, rearing head for mother-in-law; she can't even bring herself to say the word, and spells it out - B-E-D. [sic*] Meanwhile her husband gently potters around, waffling on in archaic Air Force slang about a loose tile on the roof and the likelihood of his dropping some of his pilchards on toast down his jim-jams. At the ex-girlfriend's house the husband is into comparisons after seeing Trevor - 'Am I as good in bed as he was?'
It's stylish and witty and would no doubt go down well in the West End like the other Ayckbourn comedies but there is I think a flaw in the piece, and I can't make up my mind whether it's in the writing or in Christopher Godwin's interpretation of Trevor. The inadequacy and helplessness which presumably endears him to women is presented without a mite of wistfulness or vulnerability. He is in fact just an awful stupid bore, and to imagine that his effect on others would produce anything the than the deepest ennui, never mind the emotional self searchings chronicled here, stretches credibility. The women he knows make excuses for him, the men rail at him, but no insults can dent the armour of his monosyllabic self absorption. But how, one asks, did he ever become their friend in the first place? However, the laughter is continuous as everybody vainly wonders what to do about Trevor. And perhaps Mr Ayckbourn and Mr Godwin should wonder what they can do about Trevor as well. Stanley Page is very funny indeed as the father-in-law and Polly Warren superb as Trevor's wife. The author directs."
(The Guardian, 18 June 1975)
*Presumably the author meant to write S-E-X, which is the line in the play.
Alan's Latest The Funniest Yet (by David Jeffels)
"Alan Ayckbourn, Playwright of the Year, has taken a look into typical marital bedrooms far his latest work, Bedroom Farce, which is having its premiere at Scarborough's Library Theatre this week.
London Theatre impresarios, have already shown considerable interest in the play and it is likely to be bought for presentation in the West End within the next few weeks.**
This latest play by Ayckbourn - who has five running in London - is, for me, his funniest yet.
It is one long riot due, in no small measure, to a superb cast which has achieved success in television and radio plays and which now is becoming firmly established in the resort.
Ayckbourn, director of productions at the Scarborough theatre, has indeed honoured the town again by premiering a play in the Library Theatre.
He believes that If a play does well in Scarborough it is certain to be a West End success. Of Bedroom Farce there can be no doubt. It must be it hit.
The story centres round four married couples. Each, it emerges has problems - even the newly marrieds, when the young wife wonders what type of carpet to get for the hall while making love to her husband.
The cast is faultless, every laugh line gets the full treatment. Stanley Page, Heather Stoney, Stephen Mallatratt, Janet Dale, Bob Eaton, Eileen O'Brien, Christopher Godwin and Polly Warren are brilliantly directed by Ayckbourn."
(Northern Echo, 20 June 1975)
**By the point, it had already been widely reported for more than year that the play had originally been commissioned by the National Theatre and would be produced there in 1977.
Scarborough 'Bedroom Farce'
"Alan Ayckbourn, resident director of productions at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, and now a popular playwright, has scored another success with his latest comedy Bedroom Farce. It follows five plays he has running in London.
One thinks of farces as swift moving comedies with actors chasing each other from bedroom to bedroom, but Ayckbourn does it his way and wins almost continuous laughter. Quick changes of temper, dress and lighting keeps things moving briskly among the three beds on stage. Early on one realises that this farce is concerned with the marriages of four couples, their moods, modes, nerves and temper, at an evening party which inevitably is bound to break up in the Ayckbourn way. There are the usual comings and goings, hard words and nearness to blows and mysterious disappearances, but they all contrive to rally towards the end.
It is pleasing to welcome back the majority of last year's very talented company - Stanley Page, Heather Stoney, Stephen Mallatratt, Janet Dale, Christopher Godwin, Eileen O'Brien - a grand team, with Polly Warren and Bob Eaton two newcomers.
This new comedy is Mr Ayckbourn's seventeenth in sixteen years, and it has already been arranged by Peter Hall that it shall go to the Proscenium Arch Littleton [sic] Theatre of the National Theatre on the South Bank next spring."
(The Stage, 3 July 1975)
An Ayckbourn Joke In Bedrooms (by Eric Shorter)
"Another play, Alan Ayckbourn? Such facility is bound to stir critical suspicion. All I can say is that suspicion is allayed again by the latest offering, Bedroom Farce, at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, where Mr Ayckbourn tries out all his stuff first.
It isn't, of course, a farce. Mr Ayckbourn writes comedy - domestic and especially marital comedy. Now, to add to the four West End successes and the two pieces he has since put on himself for a seaside audience, comes a characteristic joke with three bedrooms for its setting.
Forget Feydeau or Brian Rix, Mr Ayckbourn is only teasing with the title.
What he does, with an enviable lightness of touch, is to sketch four marriages viewed in turn, and to make one of them impinge inconveniently on the others.
What he cannot quite do is to make the impinging couple sympathetically convincing. They are ill-adjusted quarrelsome, self conscious, and inarticulate in their efforts to communicate mutually. Spilling out their emotions on their tolerant friends, they cause havoc wherever they go.
The other couples are wittily observed in their various ways, but the troublesome pair are not. They are almost equally tedious for us because they are sketched in terms of satirical revue, which clashed with the truer touch of comedy in the others.
Neither the author nor his players has got under their skins, only on everyone's nerves,
The rest, especially Eileen O'Brien, Heather Stoney and Stanley Page, come over with typical charm in an evening that despite its central weakness gives a great deal of incidental pleasure which only this author knows how to give it. He also directs."
(Daily Telegraph, 17 June 1975)
All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.