One of the funniest and longest-running comedy/farces ever to hit London's West End stage! Written by Marc Camoletti and translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans, the original 1960s production ran for 7 years in London. It was successfully revived and revised in 2007 and again received acclaim as "the funniest play in London!", and later transferred to Broadway.
It's the early 1960s and French architect Bernard, comfortably esconced in his bachelor pad near Orly airport in Paris, is living the life of Reilly. He has his faithful housekeeper Bertha to look after him, and is engaged to not one but three gorgeous girls, all of whom are air hostesses for different airlines. The girls fly in and out again on their journeys around the world, each blissfully unaware of the others. Bernard keeps a watchful eye on the airlines' timetables to make sure the girls never meet.
Life is pretty good for Bernard, until two little clouds appear on his horizon. First, his rather naïve old school chum from the provinces, Robert, arrives to pay him a visit, and Bernard invites him to stay for a while. Robert is at first scandalised and then lost in admiration at Bernard's juggling. Then, the girls inform Bernard that their airlines are putting on faster planes, so their journeys will be quicker and they'll each be able to spend more time with him. Bernard's neat and orderly world starts to fall apart into mayhem and disaster—but can Robert and Bertha can save the day?
The Cast: John Koch, Lindy LeCornu, Tim Taylor, Charlotte Batty, Carla Hardie and Jessica McGaffin.
Directed by: Les Zetlein
Note: Suitable for all ages.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Wednesday 17th August 2016
Boeing Boeing is the English translation of a French farce by Marc Camoletti, presented by St. Jude's Players. It is set in a Paris apartment in the early 1960s, where Bernard lives with his airline hostess fiancée. To be more truthful, he lives there in a sexual time share arrangement with each of his three airline hostess fiancées, who are totally unaware of the existence of the others. His bible is a book which contains the flight times of all of the airlines, and the three women he has carefully selected are from different airlines on very different routes, preventing any chance of them meeting in the course of their work. Gloria flies to the USA, Gabriella is on the Italian routes, and Gretchen is with the German airline. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
Reluctantly aiding and abetting him in his deceptions is his housekeeper, Bertha, a constantly grumpy individual who loves nothing more than complaining and bemoaning her lot. Bernard's old friend from the country, Robert, arrives at the apartment, planning to move to the city and expecting to renew their acquaintance and leave, but Bernard insists that he stay. Unexpectedly, things rapidly become unravelled through a combination of unforeseen factors, particularly the introduction of much faster aircraft on all three airlines, and a spate of extremely bad weather. His bible is suddenly worthless, and all three women are homing in on the apartment that they think is their exclusive home with Bernard. Keeping three women apart in one apartment is the basis of many a farce.
Veteran director, Les Zetlein, was always on a winner with this comedy, which had long runs when it was first translated. Just bas the French version would have been in the native tongue to audiences there, with only the three hostesses having accents, so Zetlein presents the English version with only those three having accents. This works far better than having French accents for Bernard, Robert, and Bertha as well as the other three.
John Koch brings lots of experience to the role of Bernard and knows how to play a farcical role, with a carefully arranged transition from smug hypocrite, to panic stricken mess, and ending up in shock over the way everything ends up with the decisions made by the three women.
Tim Taylor is his old friend Robert, at first bemused by Bernard's lifestyle, becoming panic stricken as he finds himself being reluctantly dragged into the web of intrigue as the complications pile up, one on another. Taylor has something like Bernard's journey, beginning with some degree of admiration, then becoming a smug bystander as things start to go amiss, before being caught up in the mess and panicking. Robert, too, is very surprised at the eventual outcome, giving Taylor as much to work with as Koch.
As these two are seldom offstage, it is essential that the two leads are strong and understand farce, and Koch and Taylor make it look like a walk in the park, not missing a single laugh and timing every opening and closing of the four doors leading off of the room, to perfection, as they try to keep the women apart.
Charlotte Batty plays Gloria, the feminist American from California working for TWA. Batty gives us a brash, loud, American who expects to get her own way in all things. Batty has the Californian accent down pat, and creates a character that is quite believable as she expects everybody to jump to her every command, a send up of the "ugly American" of the 60s.
Gabriella, his passionate Latin lover who flies with Alitalia, is played by Carla Hardie, dressing, moving and carrying herself with the sort of style for which Italians are famed. Hardie brings an air of refinement to the role, but not without the sexiness that is generally attributed to Italian women, twisting the men around her little finger.
Jessica McGaffin completes the trio as Gretchen, the no nonsense German with a vice-like handshake, who is working for Lufthansa. McGaffin gives Gretchen a commanding personality, commanding both men and Bertha, although the latter is rather reluctant to jump to Gretchen's orders. McGaffin's is a very playful interpretation of the highly patriotic German girl.
Lindy LeCornu plays Bertha, steals most of the scenes, and almost the whole show. If it was not for the fact that the entire cast were terrific, and at the top of their game, she would have walked off with the whole thing. Her sense of comic timing, as we have seen so often in the past, is impeccable, and her characterisations never fail. Zetlein knew what he was doing when he gave her this role.
Sadly, the season was almost over by the time that I was able to review it, so you won't be able to catch it now, but keep an eye open for future productions.
You could be excused for thinking that this 1960s farce would by now be showing its age. To an extent it is, but director Les Zetlein’s keen understanding of the genre, along with some excellent casting, has kept it vibrant, well-paced and very funny.
Don Oakley and Zetlein’s set was the stylish central room of an apartment, with plenty of doors through which the characters could make the required entrances and exits.
The cast were strong both individually and as an ensemble.
John Koch as Bernard looked and acted the part of the roué trying to juggle three fiancées at once. Those three, all airline stewardesses, while conforming to national stereotypes as per the script, were well delineated by the three women playing them. Charlotte Batty was a confident, liberated and empathetic Gloria, nicely contrasting with Carla Hardie's volatile Italian Gabriella and the uber-Teutonic Gretchen, strongly and where necessary, stridently played by Jessica McGaffin.
This is a fast moving comedy and much of the humour was carried by Tim Taylor as Bernard's provincial friend Robert and Lindy LeCornu as Bertha, Bernard's gruff maid. Their comic timing and delivery were faultless and they both handled their roles as both observers and participants with commendable subtlety. The audience readily identified with them, and laughed loud and often. Taylor was particularly funny in his many 'rabbit in the spotlight' moments.
The production maintained its pace and light humour right through to the end of the nicely choreographed bows, while having the quirky credibility found in genuine farce.
Following its origins in the 1960’s, French farce Boeing Boeing has been revised and also revived in recent years and just like a well-oiled jet engine, the comedy keeps on providing predictable and reliable service. St Jude’s Players are staging the play’s current Adelaide production and an experienced Director and good cast help the company keep Boeing Boeing safely in the air. ...
The set and props are integral to the action, ... St Jude’s is known for good set design and accomplishes the change of mood well,.... A single photograph takes on hilarious meaning in this comedy and is made the most of by Director Les Zetlein and his cast.
In St Jude’s Players’ production, the male characters are cast with actors older than was probably the playwright’s intent, but this is not a major issue.
John Koch is good as Bernard, slowly developing the panic of his character’s gradual realisation that he has lost control of his ordered and deceitful existence. ....
As Bernard’s visiting friend Robert, Tim Taylor steals most scenes with a very funny and physical performance. His facial expressions are priceless.
Charlotte Batty is excellent as the effusive and self-confident American hostess Gloria, while Carla Hardie is delightful as the Italian fiancée Gabriella. Jessica McGaffin has great stage presence and a talent for arm wrestling in her very funny portrayal of German hostess Gretchen.
Always reliable for a good performance, Lindy LeCornu is strong in her role as grumpy and put-upon housekeeper Bertha.
The production is not all happy landings, however, but the issues are relatively minor.
Overall, Boeing Boeing is a great night out, attested to on opening night by the full house, laughter and enthusiastic applause. Another very good St Jude’s production.