Edinburgh Tabernacle – 21-23 May 2015
Daft fun… Uncomplicated belly laughs and complicated plotting are the order of the day in the St Serf’s Players’ production of Wild Goose Chase at the Edinburgh Tabernacle
Derek Benfield’s country house-set three-act comedy, at the venue previously known as Inverleith Church Hall, starts as a low-key, very English affair.
The Elroods are determinedly eccentric aristocrats who communicate largely in non sequiturs when they are not taking pot-shots at postmen. However, before long their ancestral home is invaded by a disparate band and swiftly we are in the midst of a frenetic farce featuring jewel thieves, cross-dressing and a great deal of running on and off stage.
Unfortunately the logic needed for a successful farce is often lacking. Several of the characters are dramatically unnecessary, while others have no reason whatsoever for their actions. The idea of a visitor who has a ‘condition’ that involves them denying their real identity, while believing they are being pursued, goes well beyond convenient farce-fodder and into the category of lazy plotting.
There is considerable laughter to be had, however, from mistaken identity, creaking puns and the occasional double entendre. The cast and director Derek Ward prove extremely adept at wringing the maximum comedy out of the situation.
This is due in no small measure to Philip Wilson’s performance as photographer Chester Dreadnought. Sparky, lively, and enviably bendy, seemingly often on point of falling over, his physical comedy is skilful and assured. His frequent use of double-takes and a conspiratorial tone threatens to turn the whole thing into a pantomime – particularly when the character is called upon to drag up for no justifiable dramatic reason – but he always knows when to rein it in.
performed with relish
Wilson is so impressive that the other performers could easily fade into the background, and it is to their considerable credit that they manage to hold their own. Rona Arnott’s disgruntled maid Ada shows excellent comic timing, while Andrew McLeod’s guileless policeman Hilary Pond is expertly judged.
Dorsay Larnach’s dotty archaeologist Miss Partridge is performed with relish, while Jack Paterson prowls the stage with purpose as the shotgun-wielding Lord Elrood. Moira Macdonald and Vicki Horne, as Lady Elrood and her daughter Patricia, are much more realistic, but as a result come across as even more peculiar, with their understated eccentricities more disturbing as a result.
Lynsey Spence’s lovestruck teenager Jenny is particularly funny when the character tries unsuccessfully to turn herself into a vamp in her unaccountable pursuit of PC Pond. Alistair Brown and Chris Dall, as the mysterious and menacing Capone and Wedgewood, provide a mixture of humour and threat, with Dall’s wordless, psychotic inspection of a series of potential murder weapons particularly pleasing.
Any farce requires split-second accuracy to be truly effective; this one more than most, with so much of the chasing about seemingly done for its own sake. The interplay between the cast is good, and the timing is mostly spot on. However, there are other moments that do not quite work, and fall flat as a result.
On the whole, the laughs keep coming, and the cast continue to make the greatest possible use of the multiple doors boasted by Trevor Garlick’s splendid set. A greater than usual suspension of disbelief is certainly called for, and anyone who has a low tolerance for farce at the best of times should steer clear, but the results are definitely funny enough to amuse the rest of us and be counted a success.
Running time 2 hours including interval
Edinburgh Tabernacle, 41-43 Inverleith Gardens, EH3 5PRK
Thursday 21 – Saturday 23 May 2015
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinees Wed and Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets from http://www.stserfsplayers.org.uk/tickets/tickets.html
Company website: http://www.stserfsplayers.org.uk/
The cast of Wild Goose Chase. Photo Gordon Hughes