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Our new contact details are:
Michael Barfoot
Ray Cooney Plays
8 Newhouse Terrace
Station Road

Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1732 867405
email address: info@raycooneyplays.co.uk



Ray Cooney’s film version of his multi-award winning, record-breaking stage play,
‘RUN FOR YOUR WIFE’ continues to play with great success at cinemas around the
UK and is still receiving many new bookings going forward into April.

Ray Cooney is thrilled, but not surprised, that the film is proving so popular everywhere
it’s playing and that word of mouth is spreading.  The secret is partly due to the film’s
release strategy which was not only to appeal to the vast number of fans of the main
cast – Danny Dyer, Sarah Harding, Denise Van Outen and Neil Morrissey – but also to
target audiences that already knew and loved the original stage version.  With this in mind,
the film was booked to play at Odeon, Empire and Showcase cinemas’ special “senior”
screenings and, such has been the success of ‘RUN FOR YOUR WIFE’ at these performances,
that, in a rare turn of events, the film has massively increased its early box office take, turning
its fortune around.

Commented Ray Cooney:  “I am delighted with the way the film is performing.  It was always our
intention to target the ‘silver surfer’ generation, as, over the years, this is a market that has all too
often been neglected.  We were aware that in recent times with films such as ‘Quartet’ and ‘The Best
Exotic Marigold Hotel’ there has been a major growth in this particular area and built our marketing
campaign based around this demographic. When the film first opened we appeared very much the
underdog but, with our typically British bulldog spirit, we have emerged triumphant and demonstrated
that there is an audience out there that needs to be catered for. ‘RUN FOR YOUR WIFE’ has proved that
it’s definitely the people’s choice.

For further information please contact:-

Sue Porter/Lizzie Frith
Porter Frith Ltd
Tel:  020 7833 8444/07940 584066
E-mail:  porterfrith@hotmail.com
Website: www.runforyourwife.co.uk

Caught In The Net (Daily Express)

Caught In The Net (Daily Mail)

Caught In The Net (Daily Telegraph)

Caught In The Net (Evening Standard)

Caught In The Net (The Mail On Sunday)

Caught In The Net (Los Angeles Times)

Caught In The Net (Los Angeles Times)

Caught In The Net (Los Angeles Press-Telegram)

Funny Money! - The Film (Variety)

Funny Money! - The Film (Film Monthly)

Funny Money! - The Film (Sarasota reviews)

It Runs In The Family (The Stage and Television Today)

It Runs In The Family (Local reviews)

Ray Cooney - Undisputed Farce Master (The Stage and Television Today)

Time's Up - The Musical – All reviews

Twice Upon A Time – All reviews

Tom, Dick & Harry – All reviews

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Tuesday, March 14th 2006


A FWE Picture Co.production in association with Tobebo Filmproduktion GmbH & Co. KG. Produced by Herb Nanas, Brad Siegel, Leslie Greif. Executive producers, Jeff Franklin, Philip von Alvensleben, Harry Basil, Ray Cooney. Co-producers, Pat McCorkle, Peter Perrotta.
Directed by Leslie Greif. Screenplay, Harry Basil, Leslie Greif, based on the play by Ray Cooney.

With: Chevy Chase, Penelope Ann Miller, Armand Assante, Robert Loggia, Christopher McDonald, Alex Meneses, Guy Torry, Kevin Sussman.
(English, some Romanian dialogue.)

A triumph of form over content, Leslie Greif's American filmization of Ray Cooney's 1995 hit English farce "Funny Money!" makes a surprisingly fitting, if demographically dubious, Chevy Chase vehicle. Pic's bare-bones pretext, involving a suitcase full of money, eschews psychology and witty dialogue in favor of split-second comic timing, as convoluted lie-upon-lie and extraneous character-upon-character pile up a teetering construct of predictable gags delivered at breakneck speed. Well-directed slapstick, which preemed at Aspen's Comedy Fest, may prove a tricky sell, however; the childless, highly sex-oriented update of Chase's escapism-questing Griswold persona is not precisely family fare.

Toiling as a foreman in a wax fruit factory, Henry (a greyer, timeworn Chase) is a dull creature of habit and unvarying routines, to the despair of his more adventurous wife Carol (Penelope Ann Miller). But a mix-up of briefcases effects a sea-change, gifting Henry with $5 million in unmarked bills belonging to the Romanian mafia.
With a firm grasp of the situation, Henry calmly books a getaway flight to Barcelona, whereupon a fearful Carol freaks out, having learned to be careful what she wishes for.

Most of pic's action is theatrically staged in Henry and Carol's Hoboken brownstone, as, in classic farce mode, a variety of characters with different agendas start trickling, then veritably pouring in. Each entrance requires increasingly improbable and self-contradictory explanations from Henry, as characters are stashed in extra rooms or banished outdoors, popping in and out again to belie Henry's already threadbare fictions.

Soon the joint is jumping with drop-ins, chief among them Armand Assante, magnificent in an atypical comic turn as a vice cop on the take. Also on hand is Robert Loggia, impressive as Henry's boss Feldman, a white-haired lothario with a perpetual Viagra-enhanced boner. Less stellar support is provided by Christopher McDonald and Alex Menenses as Henry and Carol's best friends. A trio of armed Romanian goons in search of their missing "brerfcurse" round out the cast. Assorted mayhem, including several elaborately staged pratfalls, spit-takes, a slo-mo gun battle and Miller's escalating drunken hysteria, ensues.

Greif obviously ascribes to the Blake Edwardian school of comedy, laying out gags with commendable topographical precision. But, unlike Edwards' unique mixture of sophistication and slapstick, "Funny Money!" falls squarely in the tradition of pure farce, itself an anomaly in this age of aggressively abrasive personality comedies.

Tech credits are excellent, particularly veteran cinematographer Bill Butler's solid lensing, catching the free-for-all action crisply, ably aided by pic's triumvirate of editors.

Camera (color), Bill Butler, editors, Stephen Adrianson, Stephen Lovejoy, Terry Kelley; music, Andrea Morricone; music supervisor, Bill Ewart; production designer, Stephen Lineweaver; costume designer, Donna Zakowska; sound (Dolby), Mac Ruth, Jose Torres; animation, Trick Digital; casting, Pat McCorkle. Reviewed at HBO screening room, New York, Feb.28, 2006. (In Aspen Comedy Festival.) Running time: 97 MIN.


By Ronnie Scheib

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Trying to write a summary of a good farce can easily take over a thousand words. Thing is, Funny Money! is a good farce. And I don't have a thousand words. So here's the plot: risk-averse wax fruit salesman ("odd"-jective, wacky job) accidentally switches briefcases with a Russian Mafioso (affectionately called Mr. Nasty) and winds up with $5,000,000. A food-obsessed corrupt cop (see the pattern?) shows up to blackmail the salesman, whom he believes was soliciting sexual favors in a bathroom. See how complicated it's getting? Folks, we haven't even reached the end of Act I.
(Sing this next part to "On the Twelfth Night of Christmas," in a jolly and frivolous way, for that's what farce is.) In one crazy, hectic night, a briefcase filled with money brought: a million different stories, sight gags a plenty, briefcase full of sex toys, absolutely no shame, another cop (a newbie), stand-up comic cabbie, drunken manic lover - A NAKED MAN WITH A HARD-ON - three stupid Russians, two good friends, and a plot that never slows down. Phew.
As hard was writing farce must be - between keeping all the stories straight (until the inevitable breakdown) and keeping the momentum fast-paced, yet original - the actors are the ones who have to make the whole thing seem at least somewhat plausible. Chevy Chase is a natural for stammering, reversal-laden dialogue...he's an endearingly comic figure. Shtick, sure: but it doesn't keep him from being funny. Of course, all those pivots only look easy because he's got excellent backup, like Penelope Ann Miller, who is no stranger to the world of lampoon (and we're talking classic Lampoon: Funny Money! is years ahead [or behind] of Lampoon today). You have to be a good dramatic actor to be a good comic actor: that's what lets you distort. And if all of Miller's eclectic life experience only comes to this, a brilliantly decadent portrayal of a nervy, repressed housewife with about twenty drinks too many in her (more is always better in farce), it's a good mark to leave behind. And Christopher McDonald is always a pleasure to see on the screen - he's very much like the Christopher Reeve of Noises Off (which is to say that he's literally made for parody, in the best of ways). I could keep on mentioning actors - Alex Meneses, for example - but since a farce is ensemble-based, congratulations to the cast, especially Armand Assante, the tough cop, and Kevin Sussman, the scared cop, who are at the pinnacle of their very narrow careers.
Congratulations, too, to director/producer Leslie Greif, who has finally realized his dream of adapting the play he saw eight years ago. This should be a lesson to all stylized directors: sometimes it helps to have something bottled up inside, saturating until it explodes in an orgy of all the things you loved about comedy in the first place. Then, even if some of your jokes don't go over so well, you've thrown in so many that we're bound to forget the rough edges and just dive for the irrepressibly buoyant center.
Funny Money! is comedy at its simplest, most entertaining value, and whether as tribute to the classics of the past (like The Pink Panther or It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World ) or an "about-time!" return to the future, you will laugh, titter, guffaw, and chuckle.

Aaron Riccio is a film critic and writer living in New York.

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Reviews from SARASOTA

“Unabashed Hysteria Reigns in FUNNY MONEY” Jimmy Dean WWSB–ABC7

“Chevy Chase is in the top of his game and is supported by an excellent ensemble. It’s ‘Money’ in the Bank!” Jake Jacobson, Westwood One Radio

“FUNNY MONEY is a triumphant return for Chevy Chase and the great genre of classical farce” Wade Tatangelo, The Herald.

"FUNNY MONEY gives laugh-out-loud real meaning. This Sarasota audience barely stopped laughing long enough breath." Ann Corcoran, Radio SRQ.com

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Friday August 31st, 2003

Picture:Nigel Norrington

It’s official – Ray Cooney has entered the internet era. But you would have to be a pretty diehard Luddite to object to the gentleness with which we are eased into the 21st century in CAUGHT IN THE NET, Cooney’s laugh-a-second sequel to his smash-hit farce RUN FOR YOUR WIFE .
Two-timing taxi driver John Smith is still living in bigamous bliss in Streatham and Wimbledon, but his twin houses of cards threatens to collapse when his son by one wife meets his daughter by the other in an internet chatroom. The youngsters are determined to meet – and John, played with manic energy by Robert Daws is equally determined to sop them.
It falls to Russ Abbot as ne’er-do-well lodger Stanley, to help keep John’s two worlds apart. The gigantic Abbot is a master of physical comedy, slamming his own head in a door and carting his fellow actors around the stage as if they were rag dolls. On the cheap and cheerful set, which neatly represents both houses in the same space, he somehow manages to keep the chaos one slammed door short of a catastrophe.
He and Daws are ably supported by Carol Hawkins and Helen Gill as John’s wives and William Harry and Beccy Armory as his kids.
But the real show-stopper is Eric Sykes as Stanley’s old Dad. Virtually blind and totally deaf, the 78 year old veteran steals every scene he is in, performing perfectly-timed vaudevillian acrobats with his Zimmer frame and bringing the house down with a harmless line like: “I’ve been waiting for you in Clapham”. It has been a while since I cried laughing at the theatre, and what a joy it is when it happens.
Cooney is not much good at writing gags or witty one-liners, and the ending of
the play doesn’t quite ring true, but none of that matters in all the mobile-juggling, snorkel-wearing physical hilarity.

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Thursday August 30th, 2003

Eric Sykes is 78 years old, virtually blind, totally deaf and still as funny as the boil on your bottom: he hangs in there until you see the funny backside too.
In Ray Cooney’s riotously engaging sequel to his 1980s hit RUN FOR YOUR WIFE – the one about the bigamous taxi driver with wives living four minutes apart in Wimbledon and Streatham – Sykes plays an old dodderer.
His son, the pivotal lodger Stanley Gardner, played with consummate farcical fluency by Russ Abbot, slams the door on his first entrance.
Sykes, as Dad, is waiting to go to Felixstowe on his Zimmer frame. He thinks he’s already in the hotel. The next call is a Jehovah’s waitress. And he’s off to the beach. Except we are still in South London.
The taxi driver John Smith is now 43, and his son by curvaceous Barbara (Helen Gill) has hooked up with his daughter by flustered Mary (Carol Hawkins) on the internet.
Their getting together, on a simultaneous split-setting worthy of Alan Ayckbourn, is drilled into Smith’s dilemma, the uncovering of deceit and the complicated manoeuvres of Stanley.
As in the best farce – and this, believe me, is like Moliere worked over by Ben Johnson and Brian Rix – every line complicates the plot, every move puts someone in terrible peril.
The world of doors becomes a sort of madhouse where Abbot is secreting mad aunts, cupboards become exits to foreign lands and bigamy a side order in a takeaway Chinese Restaurant.
Bigamy? It’s big o’ me to even try to explain the plot.
But the acting, directed by Cooney to within an inch of its life, is also like some esoteric Japanese Noh theatre experience only slightly shorter and much funnier.
Strict, fanciful, brilliant, this is the funniest play of the year so far, without a doubt. Robert Dawes gives a supreme farce performance as the caught-out bigamist.
Radical Comedy, RC, Ray Cooney. The great man’s new farce hits the West End with the unexpected gale force of an almost defunct species: uproariously politically incorrect comedy rooted in our national obsessions of sex and propriety.

Michael Coveney

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Monday 3rd September 2003

A journeyman of genius

There are some people who can’t stick farce at any price, and in theory, at least, I have some sympathy for them. As Joe Orton realised, farce is the cruellest of theatrical forms, reducing people to mere cogs in an insanely logical machine for making an audience laugh. Subtlety and sensitivity are out of the question.
Yet some of my happiest evenings have been spent watching grown men with their trousers round their ankles chasing scantily clad bimbos. And the greatest of those evenings have been spent watching the work of Ray Cooney.
Cooney is perhaps the most undervalued dramatist working in Britain today. He has neither the French snob appeal of Feydeau nor the intellectual credentials of Michael Frayn. He is an unashamed journeyman – but a journeyman of genius.
As merely technical accomplishments, his best farces are a thing of beauty and a joy for ever. But there are other reasons for valuing Cooney. He continues the tradition of unashamedly popular (if critically undervalued) commercial theatre, and he retains links with the great and increasingly endangered heritage of British variety.
CAUGHT IN THE NET is a sequel to Cooney’s huge Eighties hit, RUN FOR YOUR WIFE, and it is even funnier than its predecessor. Unlike most farces, Cooney doesn’t have to spend the first act in laborious exposition. We already know that the hero, John Smith, is a bigamous taxi driver with one wife in Wimbledon and another in Streatham.
And the farcical action goes into overdrive from the start, as his teenage daughter by one marriage and his teenage son by the other discover each other on the internet and seem intent on starting a fine romance, little suspecting that they share the same dad.
Cooney borrows a trick from Ayckbourn, with the action (which he also directs) taking place simultaneously in both of John Smith’s neat suburban homes, represented by a single set consisting mostly of doors. The preposterously complex precision of the plotting is superb.
Robert Daws reveals himself as a natural farceur as the bigamous cabbie, rightly realising that a farce is far from funny for those caught up in it. His desperation as he tries to prevent his wives and children from discovering his terrible secret is a joy to behold, his whole body becoming drenched in sweat and his actions, and his lies, become even more outrageous.
Better still are the performances from two of our finest and most cherishable comedians, Russ Abbot and Eric Sykes. As Smith’s lodger, Abbot is in vintage form, miraculously combining the zany amiability of Tommy Cooper with the raging distraction of Leonard Rossiter. Just the sight of his huge chin and gangling frame makes you smile, but by the time he has invented a wholly fictitious family of lunatics, and appears to be caught in flagrante with a 16-year-old boy, you are in comic heaven.
Eric Sykes, now deaf, virtually blind and in his late seventies, is nothing short of a phenomenon as Abbot’s bonkers dad. He totters around madly on his Zimmer frame, fondly imagines (as in SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER) that a private house is actually a hotel, and performs spectacular feats of physical comedy which would gravely endanger the health of a fully sighted man half his age.
What you see here is comic brilliance matched with reckless courage, and Sykes deserves a knighthood if not a VC. Never has an old trouper trouped so valiantly.
The show is also heroically politically incorrect, with jokes about blindness, disability, senility, sudden death, funny foreigners and homosexuals piled one on top of the other with breathtaking disregard to the pieties of our age. It’s sheer joy from beginning to end.

Charles Spencer

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Thursday August 30th, 2003

Internet farce looks like a dot.bomb but it’s brilliant

A ribald Ray Cooney farce about internet dating starring Russ Abbot, Eric Sykes and Robert Daws hit the West End running last night. It was a sequel to RUN FOR YOUR WIFE which rampaged through theatreland in the Eighties. As an attempt to repeat that success, it had dot. Bomb written all over it. But in actual fact, this is so painful, it’s brilliant.
Cooney’s story of a south London bigamist who threatens to be exposed when his son and daughter by different marriages hook up on the internet, is a Rubik’s cube of interlocking chaos. Not are there any sacred cows for pre-political correctness – not even the excruciating German and Chinese parodies which feature in the course of the two hour domestic debacle. There’s even a running gay gag which isn’t exactly homophobic, but which does encourage the most prurient sniggering.
But the best thing about Cooney’s farce is the unbelievable staging which runs the action of the twice-married cabbie in both his homes simultaneously. Douglas Heap’s luridly tacky design is almost as unbearable to look at as the action is dizzying to watch. In shades of sickly green, sky blue and bright yellow, there are no less than eight doors, the constant banging of which threatens not just to bring down the stage, but the whole house with it.
Robert Daws from TV’s Outside Edge and Roger Roger plays the affable bigamist who ties himself in reef knots trying to prevent his son and daughter meeting. Hurtling on and off stage, Daws works up a Niagara of anxious sweat disguising himself with snorkelling equipment, rolling himself in a carpet, pulling yoga poses behind the sofa and belting between his marital homes.
Although Daws is the ostensible leading man, the irrepressible Russ Abbot gets more stage time and finds himself on familiar ground as the lodger “Uncle Stan” in the madhouse of Daws’s Wimbledon home. From the first moment he gives the loony roll of his eyeballs, you know you’re in the hands of an old pro who doesn’t need to learn new tricks. His enthusiasm for Cooney’s slapstick is then matched only by his physical fearlessness.
But if Abbot is brave, the septuagenarian Eric Sykes is positively heroic as he vaults about on his Zimmer frame. Sykes plays Abbot’s senile Dad whom Abbot is supposed to be taking to Felixstowe, but who shows up at Daws’s home instead – mistaking it for a seaside hotel. He may not have the best lines, but Sykes is extraordinarily game, with the presence of a veteran and the energy of a spring chicken.
Helen Gill and Carol Hawkins as contrasting health-food and cholesterol-food housewives are more or less the stooges of the piece, but ensure Daws and Abbot get their long awaited come-uppance. Meanwhile, William Harry’s bouncy son gets cringingly mistaken for a rent boy servicing Russ Abbot. Harry is also led to believe that Beccy Armory’s sparky daughter is blind, as Cooney continues to sail right up close to the wind of political correctness.
In the second half, the show’s energy flags, grows repetitious and is finally exhausting. But if you lurch out shattered on to the Strand after, it’s worth sparing a thought for an ageing cast who must do it all over again tomorrow.

Patrick Marmion

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September 2nd 2003

Fun in the farce lane

It’s lowbrow, but hard to beat.
As a student and a bicyclist going through a highbrow phase, I steered clear of Ray Cooney’s RUN FOR YOUR WIFE in 1983.
I couldn’t imagine that a farce about a cabbie with one wife in Wimbledon and another four minutes down the road in Streatham would amuse me.
It ran for years and now, too late, I’m sorry, because I was obviously quite mistaken. The sequel CAUGHT IN THE NET which opened this week at the Vaudeville, had my mascara running down my cheeks and staining my white linen trousers.
For sheer escapism (albeit quintessentially lowbrow) this show is hard to beat.
Ray Cooney, who also directs, is still one of the most celebrated contemporary exponents of the when-did-you-last-see-your-trousers? genre. Two decades on, his taxi driver, John Smith, now has a wife, Mary and a daughter, Vicki, in Wimbledon, and a wife, Barbara, and a son, Gavin, in Streatham.
Like all good farces, success is a matter of timing, but the pace of life, real and dramatic, is faster now than it was in 1983 thanks to the internet, e-mail and mobile phones, which Cooney cleverly integrates into his high-speed, high-tech, high-stress plot.
The teenage offspring of John Smith have met by chance in an internet chat-room and discovered that they both have a dad named John Lawrence Smith, and guess what, both dads drive cabs. They are so excited at having so much in common that they arrange to meet.
For the next two hours, an increasingly manic John Smith (Robert Daws) attempts to keep his households apart.
At its climatic craziest, John dons goggles and a snorkel and pretends to be giving swimming lessons in the sitting room. It gets steadily more demented when John’s loyal lodger Stanley (Russ Abbot), who should be taking his senile old dad on holiday to Felixstowe, agrees to have a major sexual problem and a penchant for rent boys to help John save his marriages.
Ingeniously constructed and staged garishly with the blue-walled Smiths alongside the yellow-walled Smiths, both sharing a green sitting room (and both households oblivious of the other), there are eight doors to open, slam, lock and hide behind.
Frantically good fun, it’s also massively politically incorrect (sexist, ageist, mildly homophobic and liberally sprinkled with jokes about blindness and death) and performed by a cast able to change tack in split seconds.
Eric Sykes and his Zimmer frame perform the most brilliantly choreographed pas de, er, six of all time, in search of a beach in a Wimbledon villa, in a farce which only runs out of steam in its denouement when, frankly, I too was exhausted.

Georgina Brown

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February 2, 2004

He’s happiest on the farce side of life

Brit Ray Cooney’s sequel to ‘Run for Your Wife’ makes its West Coast premier Friday

By Mike Boehm

Times Staff Writer

Ray Cooney stands at the apron of a stage in Long Beach, probing his round ruddy, predominantly bald and slightly bumpy skull to make a point about his long life in the British theatre. His fingers have marched well north of the furrowed trenches of his forehead, searching for a spot near the crown. Somewhere up there, he says, is a little white scar, proof that farce is not always a laughing matter.
When it comes to inducing laughter among theatregoers, few pates have been more productive. Out of that 71-year-old dome have popped 19 plays over the last 43 years, all but two of them farces. Several had long runs in London and have been revived often elsewhere. “Move Over Mrs Markham” (written with John Chapman) and “Out of Order” are among Cooney’s frantic contraptions in which adulterers try to cover their tracks. His biggest success has been “Run for Your Wife”, the 1982 piece about a harried bigamist trying to keep his two houses of cards from collapsing into each other. It ran for more than eight years in the West End. “Caught in the Net”, the recent sequel to “Run for Your Wife”, has its West Coast premier Friday at International City Theatre in Long Beach. As is often the case, Cooney is directing the show and acting in it as well.
In “Caught in the Net”, taxi driver John Smith dispatches himself frantically between his two suburban London homes, trying to head off the meeting of two teens – his son and daughter - who have grown friendly in an internet chat room. Excited that each has a cab driver father named John Smith, these unknowing half siblings want to further their acquaintance in person. At certain points, doors will slam as rapidly as a punk rock band’s bass drum. An older man played by Cooney is among the characters whom the cabby and his ally Stanley, must keep shut up or in the dark to avert a disastrous revelation.
The doors were slamming fast and hard one night some 20 years ago as Cooney performed in a suburban shakedown run of his 1984 play, “Two Into One”. Just before the first act ended, all that banging had dislodged a large painting from the wall. It fell right on Cooney’s head.
“The audience suddenly stopped laughing, and I realized it was because there was blood pouring down my face” the urbane but unpretentious dramatist said, amused at the memory. Cooney says he dismissed a doctor’s insistence that he proceed to the emergency room, had the wound tended backstage and performed the rest of the play. “Before we got to London, I made sure all the pictures were secured.”
All sorts of mishaps were predicted for Cooney when, at 14, he quit school to play the young Edvard Grieg in “Song of Norway”, a musical about the composer.
“My parents were working class,” he says, “and they’d scrimped and saved to send me to this good school.”
But apart from a hitch in the British army as a conscript during his late teens, he has made a life in the theatre in which he nearly has done it all: acting, writing, directing, producing plays and running a theatre of his own, He is heir to a vulnerable British tradition of farce, having learned to love the genre as a youngster acting in plays from the 1920’s and 1930’s by Ben Travers. He made his name on the London stage in the 1950’s with the Whitehall Theatre Company, led by another leading name in farce, actor-director Brian Rix.
Cooney says he started to write out of boredom while playing a secondary role in one of Rix’s hits, “Simple Spymen”.
“I was in this play for four years, and after about a year I started thinking, ‘All I’m doing is playing tennis and chasing actresses and having a good time. I think I maybe should be doing something a bit more useful.’ So I started to scribble.”
The result was “One for the Pot”, written with fellow actor Tony Hilton and fostered by Rix. Its success spawned a playwriting career, at first usually with co-writers but primarily on his own since the early 1970’s. After establishing himself as a writer-actor, Cooney says, he took on the roles of director and producer because “I’m the kind of guy who finds it very difficult to say no.” That, he says, is what landed him in Long Beach. Shashin Deai, artistic director of International Theatre, has been a fan of Cooney’s plays since the late 1960’s and staged two of them, “Out of Order” and “Funny Money!” at ITC during the 1990’s.
When Cooney, who spends a good deal of time in Los Angeles, attended ITC’s 2000 production of “Noises Off” by Michael Frayn, the two struck up a friendship. From then on, Desai was after Cooney to act and direct at ITC.
The clincher, Desai says, was his eagerness to have Cooney stage a new play instead of a revival.
For Cooney, the acting and directing turn coincides with one of his regular visits with his screenwriter son, Michael, who lives in L.A. Together they have written a farce, “Tom, Dick & Harry”, that has had a suburban tryout in England and is headed for a London production late this year or early in 2005. Cooney and Linda, his wife of 40 years, also spend a lot of time in Australia with their other son, Danny, and their two grandchildren.
Cooney says it occurred to him seven years ago that there could be another play in the pretzel-shaped life of his bigamist cabby, especially if he introduced nearly grown kids into the mix. He resisted the idea, thinking that a sequel “isn’t the kind of thing you do in the theatre. They do it in movies, don’t they?” But the belief that it could be hilarious prompted him eventually to write “Caught in the Net”, and open it in London in 2001.
Most of the British critics like it: even a slightly grudging Benedict Nightingale of the Times of London, who wrote, “The piece has more in common with ‘Nothing On’, the farce Michael Frayn parodies in his classic ‘Noises Off,’ than with ‘Noises Off’ itself. But it had me cackling and chortling in the stalls for roughly two hours.”
Cooney concedes that he divides critics: those who appreciate his plays because they think farce fulfils its mission by generating laughter and those who want depth, dimension or social satire. The group that wants brain food tends to disparage Cooney with comparisons to fellow Brits Frayn, Joe Orton and Alan Ayckbourn – as the New York Times’ Mel Gussow did in his dismissive review that sank “Run for Your Wife”, on Broadway in 1989. In contrast to more ambitious comic writing, Gussow wrote, “‘Run for Your Wife’ aspires to mediocrity and achieves it.”
Cooney keeps his equanimity in the face of brickbats. No, he says readily, he never aspired to do more than entertain. “Have I ever wanted to be more serious? I love the quality that Alan (Ayckbourn) has, that he can make you laugh and cry in the same play. I’ve never felt the urge to go any deeper. I just leave that to other people who do it really well. I feel so grateful I’ve had this particular facet to my talent, and maybe I should stick to it.”

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February 18, 2004


British writer-director Ray Cooney fishes for humor with the tale of a bigamist's house(s) of cards.

By David C. Nichols , Special to The Times

Sure fire (Shashin Desai)

The giddy guilty pleasures of old-school boulevard fare propel the West Coast premiere of "Caught in the Net," produced by International City Theater in Long Beach. Writer-director Ray Cooney's schizoid farce about a bigamist's colliding households is an uproarious example of high-grade lowbrow lunacy.
West End icon Cooney has been generating post-Feydeau folly since 1961. Long considered the heir to celebrated British farceur Ben Travers, Cooney's canon counts several staples in the populist field, such as "Move Over Mrs. Markham," co-written with John Chapman in 1971 and a dinner-theater perennial ever since.
In 1983 came "Run for Your Wife," which inaugurated Cooney's company, Theatre of Comedy. "Wife," a screwball study of one taxi driver and two spouses, ran for almost nine years in London. Though crucified on Broadway in 1989, it has become another regional favorite.
In 2001, Cooney concocted "Caught in the Net," which rejoins "Wife's" personable cabby John Smith (Richard Ashton) and his bipolar situation 18 years later. In Wimbledon, John reports to one wife, Mary (Tracy Winters); his teenage daughter, Vicki (Kristina Bartlett); and their lodger, Stanley Gardner (Greg Zerkle). This amiable loon is a longtime ally in John's tacit campaign to maintain his Chelsea home front, where the other wife, Barbara (Joanne McGee), and their son, Gavin (Phillip C. Vaden), are ensconced.
After Vicki and Gavin connect in an Internet chat room, struck by each other's identical paternal description, they make a date. The Act 1 rising action concerns John and Stanley's efforts to prevent this assignation from shattering the status quo. The net tangles further in Act 2 with the advent of Stanley's addled dad (Cooney), here for his promised seaside excursion. Further synopsis would cause hyperventilation.
Cooney's narrative presents both locales at once, traversing Douglas Heap's pro-forma set like a soft-focus "How the Other Half Loves." Indeed, "Caught" suggests Alan Ayckbourn aping Neil Simon on Red Bull. The dual domiciles correspond and interface without blurring, and the various British jokes land without being Americanized. This seems a testament to director Cooney's expert control over author Cooney's chortling invention.The daft cast members display convincing accents and endanger the doorjambs with kidney-threatening élan. Ashton's harried protagonist is hilarious, with a knack for knockabout comedy. Winters and McGee limn the rising confusion of both Mrs. Smiths to perfection. Bartlett and Vaden are fresh, funny juveniles, and Cooney's cracked coot hijacks the house. This goes double for Zerkle, whose discombobulated frenzy grows more sidesplitting with each mounting indignity.
Technical concerns are proficient and polished. Besides Heap, the design roster includes Bill Georges' lighting and sound, Vika Teplinskaya's props and Kim DeShazo's costumes.
Some critics have faulted Cooney's farcical architecture for its relative triviality. "Caught" has little of Ayckbourn's satiric edge, and none of the Olympian complexity of Michael Frayn's "Noises Off."
Still, Cooney's sure-fire Shaftesbury approach carries its own virtues. Even politically incorrect aspects like Mary's same-sex misread of Stanley's maneuvers emerge not from easy stereotyping but in service of escalating complications. In fact, "Caught in the Net" snags its belly laughs with more authenticity than many a sitcom, and therein lies its satisfying appeal.

Where: International City Theater at Center Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach
When: Thursdays to Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
Ends: March 7
Price: $30 to $38
Contact: (562) 436-4610
Running time: 2 hours

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February 17, 2004

ICT comedy a 'Net' full of laughs

John Farrell

As soon as you take your seat at International City Theatre's West Coast premiere production of Ray Cooney's "Caught in the Net," you'll have an idea of the kind of night you are in for.
Designer Douglas Heap has provided a bright and cheery modern living room interior -- actually two living rooms in one -- with eight prominent doors for the play, and, sooner or later, most of them will be slamming away happily.
Farces using doors are almost as old as the organized theater. Plautus used them in Imperial Rome, Shakespeare borrowed them, Moliere loved them, Feydeau depended on them.
But the cell phone? Certainly playwright Cooney is one of the first to make the ubiquitous cell phone the center of a high-speed farce. And "Caught in the Net" is just about as fast-paced a piece of comedy as you are going to find on stage anywhere. "Laugh-a-minute" is a tired cliche and not half-accurate for this play, where neither the cast nor the audience get to stop for breath.
" Net" is its author's sequel to his huge hit play "Run for Your Wife," and takes us back into the crazy world of John Leonard Smith's marriage to Mary Smith and his marriage to Barbara Smith. John Smith, you see, is married to both women at once, as he was in "Run for Your Wife," though only he and his friend and lodger, Stanley, know it.
Now, though, he has children -- a teenage daughter, Vicki from Mary, and a teenage son, Gavin, from Barbara. The kids have met in an Internet chat room and are fascinated that both their fathers share the same name, age and occupation. Now the kids want to meet each other's families.
But if they do, John's lovely life of bigamy will end, and he will do almost anything to keep the kids apart, including enlisting poor Stanley in a series of lies that just keep getting bigger and bigger as the situation gets crazier and crazier -- and the doors get slammed, locked and pounded on with greater frequency and fury.
Richard Ashton is John, the big, likable husband in the middle of the muddle, trying to keep his eager young son from meeting his equally eager young daughter, and trying to keep both of them from seeing him simultaneously. Ashton makes John so likable, so sweet, you forgive him his transgressions and cheer for his success.
That he succeeds at all is due to the exertions of Stanley (Greg Zerkle), who goes to absolutely extraordinary lengths to help his friend. Zerkle possesses a rubber face and a sense of his own importance that makes his Stanley the real star of the show.
Mary Smith (Tracy Winters) is witness to some of Stanley's craziest antics, as he pretends to be a telephone answering service and much more just to keep John's other wife, Barbara (Joanne McGee), from talking to anyone in her husband's other family. That's where the cell phone comes in. John has long used it as his only phone, so his families won't ever meet. Now it keeps ringing a glorious tune at every wrong moment. Teenage son Gavin (Philip C. Vaden) and teenage daughter Vicki Smith (Kristina Bartlett) are continually coming and going, being locked in their rooms and shoved out the back door as the complications keep coming. These four family members are continually unaware of the chaos around them as the two men struggle to keep everyone from finding out the truth, and their artless simplicity makes the situation all the funnier.
After intermission, playwright and director Cooney takes a role as Stanley's slightly daft, slightly deaf dad (he thinks they are on vacation in a hotel in Felixstowe), showing a gift for broad comedy and the more than occasional pratfall.
Cooney has made his reputation as a farceur (the "prequel" to this play ran in London's West End for eight years), and as director he shows he knows how to get every laugh available.
" Caught in the Net" is all about timing, and from timed slammed doors to perfectly timed entrances and exits, it moves with the energy and speed of a train running downhill without brakes, crashing to a surprise ending. In the small and audience-friendly Center Theater, it fits with physical perfection, a perfect match between theater size and play size. Cooney's conceit in having the two living rooms pushed into one, with action taking place at the same moment between actors who never see those in the other living room, just adds to the fun.
" Caught in the Net" is not really about anything and doesn't have anything important to say. It takes serious subjects and resolves them with comedy. It is a light dessert of a play, fast and witty and silly, filled with characters you'll like, winning performances and enough slammed doors and surprising twists and turns to please anyone.

John Farrell is a Los Angeles freelance writer
When: February 10 thru March 7
Where: International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 East Ocean Boulevard
Information: ( 562) 436-4610
Web site: www.ictlongbeach.com

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April 25th 2002

Ray Cooney - Undisputed Farce Master

The internationally acclaimed comedy writer tells Patrick Newley about the historical roots of his work and the surprisingly kindly nature of theatre critics.
At 70, Ray Cooney is still the most productive and successful of all modern British farce writers. He has a string of international trouser-dropping hits with scantily clothed ladies and the odd dead body falling out of wardrobes from here to Hong Kong.
So far he has written 18 West-End productions, the latest of which, ‘CAUGHT IN THE NET’ is enjoying a healthy run at the Vaudeville Theatre with Russ Abbot and Eric Sykes. The reviews have been ecstatic from normally stuffy critics who often see the genre as being merely frothy commercial fare. If ever the line “I was literally rolling around in the aisles with laughter” could be attributed truthfully to a production, then it must surely be a Cooney farce.
But farce for Cooney is a deadly serious business. “I believe I can see the roots of my kind of farce in Shakespeare’s comedies, through Feydeau, Pinero, Ben Travers and Phillip King,” he says, backstage at the Vaudeville. “It’s not really surprising, because when I was a young actor I worked in fit-ups – that is doing a different play each night- and then I was in weekly rep appearing in the comedies of people like Travers and King. Without realising it, I was soaking up all this wealth of theatrical experience from these writers.”
By 1956 he had joined Brian Rix’s famous company at the Whitehall Theatre, where he appeared in a variety of farces with such stalwarts as John Slater and Leo Franklyn. He cites the experience of working with Rix as being of immense influence in his later career. “He was a wonderful man to work with and very generous onstage. He always surrounded himself with good people.”
“He was also an astute businessman, and he did this amazing deal with the BBC whereby, every now and then, they would broadcast one act of a Whitehall farce. You have to remember that the BBC was the only channel in those days with an audience of 20 million. It was incredible advertising for the shows.”
In 1961, while working at the Whitehall, he wrote ‘ONE FOR THE POT’ with Tony Hilton, which ran for an incredible 12,221 performances – with Rix in the leading role. So, from a writer’s view, what exactly makes a good farce?
“As a playwright, you are looking for a good story,” he says. “A story that can grip the audience. In the end you can get the comedy right but does the audience care about the characters?”
“I think that Joe Orton’s description of farce as being ‘ordinary people in extraordinary situations’ is a very good one, and in my kind of farce that is what I am trying to achieve. This is why actors such as Donald Sinden and Richard Briers are so good in these plays.”
Cooney continues: “You are looking for good actors because the characters are very real. It takes me about two years to write a farce from the very basic idea – say, a man with two wives. You make lots of little notes and then you sit down and work a basic plot. And then there are the characters that have to serve. In ‘RUN FOR YOUR WIFE’ – the man with two wives, what kind of job would he have? A lorry driver? A cab driver? – they’re funny anyway and eccentric.”
“Then you have to think ‘What’s the danger?’ In farce you always have to have the danger. Of course you have the two wives finding out – which is wonderful danger – and then you can get authority in somewhere like the police. Then I map the whole thing out but I don’t write a word until I have the whole play in my mind from the beginning until the end.”
Cooney uses a pen, rather than a computer for his writing. A first draft will take him about six weeks, followed by a rehearsed play reading with about 150 people in the audience. “I learn so much from that. There are questions and answers and then back to the board for another rewrite. I am vicious with my own plays – I rewrite a lot.”
Cooney tests a play out in the regions and then rewrites it so that, by the time it gets to London, he will know pretty much how it works. He compares the original script to a middle of the range Ford car – by the time it appears on the West End stage it has acquired the precision, the elegance and the comfort of a Rolls-Royce.
Brilliantly structured and consistently funny, all Cooney’s farces travel well, despite their fantastic plots, In ‘OUT OF ORDER’, a top MP is attempting to have an affair with the secretary of the leader of the opposition in a top hotel, while a dead body hangs out of the window. In ‘BANG BANG BEIRUT’, a variety artiste playing in the Middle East gets dragged into a plot to spirit the young King out of the country before revolutionaries get him. In ‘NOT NOW DARLING’, the flamboyant leading man – played originally by Donald Sinden – is scheming to seduce a married stripper with the aid of a £5,000 mink.
“In the beginning there is the plot,” Cooney emphasises. “I’m not searching for a comedy plot or a funny story line – I’m searching for tragedy. Farce, more than comedy, is akin to tragedy.”
Understandably, farce is regarded as one of the most skilled of all acting traditions and great farceurs of the past are remembered still by the public with affection – Ralph Lynn, Tom Walls, Patrick Cargill and Derek Nimmo were just a few.
“To play farce,” says Cooney, “you must have tremendous discipline. In a Shakespeare play you have the wonderful flowery language that you can hide behind but in farce you have nothing – it’s a very ordinary language. In Shakespeare or a great drama you have two or three pages of speech where you are explaining how you feel about the situation and then the actor is in control of his destiny on the stage. My plays have a tremendous rigidity to them and the actors have to make it seem that they are not, as it were, in this straitjacket. And the situations are exaggerated. You don’t usually get two hours of absolute mayhem - the way you do in my plays – in real life.”
In 1983 Cooney founded the Theatre Of Comedy based at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre. He reflects on his decision: “The main reason in starting it was one felt that whereas we had a National Theatre that looked after the dramas and musicals, we did not have a national theatre for comedy – the thing we are renowned for all over the world.”
“Our comedy actors, comedy television series, Shakespeare’s comedies, Restoration Comedy, Ben Travers and so on. I felt there wasn’t such a company so I sounded out a few actors and was genuinely surprised by the response.”
“The company has lost its way a bit now but is still responsible for TV series like ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. I am convinced that the Theatre Of Comedy – if it had been based at the Playhouse Theatre from the start and not the Shaftesbury - would have put the Playhouse on the map for good.”
In the seventies and eighties he turned Producer-Director and had an impressive track record of West End hits. ’Children Of A Lesser God’, ‘Chicago’, ‘Duet For One’, ‘They’re Playing Our Song’ and ‘Clouds’ were just a few. “Of all the hats I wear, producing was the one I was happy to throw away. I don’t produce now because it is such a tremendous commitment. If you produce a play you have to be there, you have to oversee the advertising. See the tickets are sold and so on. It’s your responsibility.”
“But I did enjoy producing things like ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway?’ – that was a tremendous experience and I don’t think that Tom Conti has done anything better.” He smiles and then adds, “I’ve had some flops – ‘Fire Angel’ was one. Oh dear.”
A creative artiste in the theatre at the peak of his powers, Cooney shows no signs of slowing down. He is revered by performers and often works with the same teams – they are a “close family”. Surprisingly, he has also been liked by the critics in his long career. “I don’t find the critics snooty about my plays at all – 90 per cent have always been very kind. If there is a farce they don’t like then they go to town – then it can be very tough.”
Summing up, he says: “I was never overeducated. I left school at 14 and just wanted to get into the theatre. I happened to have this sort of algebraic, mathematically silly mind. I think that to write my sort of plays, you have to be an actor – acting for me is pure joy. Writing is quite lonely and directing saps you because everyone wants you. But I’ve been spoilt in my career. I’ve never really done anything that I didn’t want to do. I simply did everything that came along.”
And didn’t he do well?

A Summary

Born London May 30. Educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich
First stage appearance as boy actor in ‘The Song of Norway’ (Palace Theatre)
National Service for two years, then works in various rep companies including Blackburn, Aldershot and Worthing.
Joins Brian Rix’s company at the Whitehall Theatre appearing in ‘Dry Rot’ and ‘Simple Spyman’.
Writes ‘One For The Pot’ (1961) ‘Chase Me Comrade’ (1964), ‘Charlie Girl’ (1965), ‘Stand By Your Bedouin’ (1967), ‘My Giddy Aunt’ (1968)
Writes ‘Not Now Darling’ (1970), ‘Move Over Mrs Markham’ (1971), ‘Why Not Stay For Breakfast’ (1973), ‘There Goes The Bride’ (1975).
Work as producer includes ‘Lloyd George Knew My Father’, ‘A Ghost On Tiptoe’, ‘Saint Joan’, ‘The Trials Of Oscar Wilde’, ‘Ipi Tombi’, ‘Chicago’, and ‘Fire Angel’.
Produces ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway?’, ‘Hello Dolly!’ (revival), ‘Duet For One’ and ‘Children Of A Lesser God’.
Writes ‘Run For Your Wife’. It runs for eight years and Ray plays in it for the last eighteen months of its run.
Founds ‘Theatre of Comedy’ (Shaftesbury Theatre), writes ‘Two Into One’
Writes ‘Wife Begins At Forty’.
Purchases the Playhouse Theatre, London, writes ‘It Runs In The Family’ and appears in it for two years.
Writes ‘Out Of Order’ and ‘Funny Money!’. Appears in London production of ‘Funny Money!’ for 18 months.
Writes and appears in ‘Caught In The Net’ (Vaudeville Theatre)
Co-writes with son, Michael, ‘Tom, Dick & Harry’ which opened at The Duke Of York's Theatre, London

© The Stage and Television Today.

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Posh panto for grown-ups!

With a distinguished cast conventionally dressed, you might think that The Mill at Sonning’s latest production is an antidote to pantomime. You’d be wrong! Ray Cooney’s farce, IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY, is panto for grown-ups, a fast-paced rollercoaster of good old-fashioned fun.
There are plenty of similarities to panto – particularly men dressing up as women, and all the jokes that produces; soda siphon squirting, and funny accents, not to mention Patrick Monckton’s wheelchair performance which was of Shakespearian proportions. Everyone who has ever been in panto says it's hard work but it’s the one time of the year when you can let your hair down.
The same can be said for IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY. There are so many coming and goings it’s hard to keep up. Richard Derrington, as Dr Hubert Bonney, must have a particularly hard job remembering what he should be covering up as Dr David Mortimore (Michael Cochrane) endeavours to keep his illegitimate son a secret before delivering a lecture which could win him a knighthood.
There are some smashing performances, all delivered with silly, hysterical perfection – a real chance for the cast to let rip under the talented direction of Ron Aldridge, and get in the Christmas spirit.

Clare Brotherwood


Comic confusion
The Mill at Sonning's hilarious festive farce

Serving up its traditional festive fare both on stage and in its restaurant, The Mill at Sonning has surpassed itself. Their production of Ray Cooney’s hilarious farce IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY is one of the most energetic pieces of theatre to be seen this Christmas.
The story is as implausible as it is enjoyable. Dr Mortimore, the undistinguished Head of Neurology at St Luke’s hospital, is nervously preparing for a prestigious lecture which could lead to great promotions for him if it goes well. After continual stress-inducing interruptions from his boss, his wife, the hospital matron and other colleagues, he is unaware at first that his latest visitor is his former lover from 18 years before.
When she tells him that she had secretly given birth to his son, and that said son is now downstairs demanding to see his dad, Mortimore’s stress levels go into orbit. They remain there for the next two hours as he tries to extricate himself from the possible career disaster.
Being Ray Cooney territory, the action involves a complex series of deceptions, mistakes and misunderstandings. They are served up with plenty of silly jokes and hearty visual comedy. In and out of a series of doors, windows, bathrooms and hidey-holes, the cast fling themselves with abandon. The sheer energy of all the performers is phenomenal. I was exhausted just watching them and worried once or twice if they would do themselves a mischief.
Among a series of excellent performances I would especially note that of Patrick Monckton as Bill, an eccentric (possibly barmy) patient who is an innocent bystander as the crazy events unfold. His inappropriate interjections take moments of pure hilarity to an almost surreal level. The suave, yet manic, performance by Michael Cochrane as the beleaguered Mortimore is the strong centre that holds this piece together. Memorable flights of fancy from other cast members such as Dr Bonney’s rendition of Mammy, or the staid Matron accidentally high on drugs, come thick and fast, leaving you no time to catch your breath before you are forced to laugh again. Even now I am smiling at what went on with the soda-syphon.
If you’re looking for an honest-to-goodness funny and entertaining show then IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY fits the bill perfectly. The Mill have made this a real special occasion for their patrons. It made me feel very Christmassy indeed.

Angie Johnson


There is nothing worse than a half-hearted farce – but thankfully this is full-on comedy.
The Mill at Sonning is chuckling through Christmas with Ray Cooney’s IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY and it’s a great big helping of festive cheer.
For starters, it is set in the doctors’ common room of a London hospital, which gives scope for everything from oversized syringes and hanky-panky in the sluice room to confused but hilarious patients in pyjamas and out-of-control wheelchairs. Centre stage in this fast and impeccably-timed romp is Michael Cochrane as Dr David Mortimore, who is preparing to give a lecture on which his knighthood depends. Despite its importance to him, colleagues seem much more interested in the play they are rehearsing for Christmas – but things really start to shoot out of control when a former nurse arrives. Following her is the raging 18 year old result of her dalliance in the sluice room with Dr Mortimore – and the deceits and outrageous cover-ups that follow are pure farce, balloons up the jumper and all, beautifully done under the fine direction of Ron Aldridge.
This play has a cast of 11, which is large for a production at The Mill, but there isn’t one weak link. Richard Derrington is great as the apparently totally ineffectual Dr Hubert Bonney, who comes up with a fine line in song and dance in crisis and continues to surprise everyone right up to the happy (albeit unlikely) end.
Damian Hunt’s performance as Leslie, the drink-fuelled teen determined to find daddy, is pure adolescent with attitude, while Abi Harris makes a good job of being his doting but decidedly challenged mum.
Jacqueline Clarke’s matron is everything a comedy matron should be, and more (like window sill acrobat – go and see it!).
Patrick Lennox’s portrayal as fun-loving Dr Mike Connolly is great entertainment, while Belinda Carroll certainly has the last laugh as Dr Mortimore’s long-suffering wife.
Veteran real-life couple Dennis Ramsden (hospital big-wig Sir Willoughby Drake) and Christine Russell (Dr Bonney’s mother) prove the ability to play farce well can be like fine wine, and just get better and better.
Darren Machin , as the confused but highly funny police sergeant, doesn’t miss a chance to make the audience laugh – but there is one Christmas star who shone just a little brighter for me.
I wanted to take Bill (Patrick Monckton) home with me, to keep in the cupboard under the stairs and wheel out whenever my sense of humour fails. A man wearing pyjamas and sitting in a wheelchair, who actually has very little to do with the plot and precious few lines, doesn’t sound at all funny – but this performance is an absolute comedy gem.

Sally Bryant


The Mill at Sonning is giving the gift of comedy this Christmas with a play written by the master of farce, Ray Cooney.
The story for IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY may be simple, but take a dose of human faults and frailties, add a pinch of deception and a dash of confusion and you have the recipe for a perfect cocktail to serve this festive season.
Dr David Mortimore (a familiar Michael Cochrane from a host of TV programmes) is preparing to address a conference of neuro-surgeons with a speech he hopes will ensure him a knighthood.
A visitor arrives – a nurse he had a fling with 18 years ago. Mortimer learns that as a result of their tryst she bore him a son and the teenager is in the hospital looking for him. Rather than accept this parental responsibility, Dr Mortimer hatches a quick plan to pass the boy off as his colleague Dr Hubert Bonney’s son.
From this point on there are more twists than a Thorpe Park roller coaster as other colleagues become involved “with hilarious results” as they say on theatre posters throughout the land.
In this instance it is true. There are hilarious moments from an excellent cast (most notably Richard Derrington as the put-upon Dr Bonney and the wonderful and prolific Jacqueline Clarke as Matron)
It’s a fun play and a perfect one for this setting where the audience is close to the action and space limitations make one well-designed set a necessity. The direction from Ron Aldridge, making a return visit to The Mill, deserves praise as the momentum never lags and the confusion remains firmly on the stage.

Eileen Aspinall


Farce fits the bill

Looking for an antidote to panto? The Mill at Sonning may have the answer.
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY entertainingly follows the farcical imperative of sinking people deeper into trouble the more they try to escape from it. It has a Christmas setting at a London hospital where high-flying David Mortimore (Michael Cochrane) is due to address an international symposium.
There always has to be a ‘fall guy’ in farce and this unenviable role goes to Mortimore’s timid colleague Hubert Bonney.
He is portrayed by Richard Dennington, whose improvised song and dance routines are a highlight of the evening.
Veteran Dennis Ramsden and Jacqueline Clarke slip comfortably into the roles they played in the original London production. Ramsden is pomposity incarnate as hospital bigwig Sir Willoughby Drake and Clarke as an old-style ‘iron lady’ matron is even more alarming when she sheds her inhibitions! Damian Hunt makes a good impression as teenage tearaway, Leslie.
Director Ron Aldridge keeps the action moving briskly along.

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November 30th 2006

Christmas is the time for sheer enjoyment and Ray Cooney is expert at providing it. His plays give the cast the opportunity to have so much fun that they are probably unaware of the vast amount of nervous energy being expended.
Michael Cochrane is a much respected doctor, married to Belinda Carroll and about to give a prestigious lecture which could earn him a knighthood. Suddenly, however, he finds himself face to face with his past, in the person of a nurse with whom he had a fling some 18 years ago. Unbeknown to him, their liaison produced a son who has come to the hospital with her to find his father.
Abi Harris is the attractive single mother and Damian Hunt is the son whose performance really takes off when he jumps to the wrong conclusion and throws himself into the arms of his real father’s colleague.
Richard Derrington gives a delightful performance as another doctor caught up in the family cover up, bursting into song and dance and earning well deserved applause.
Patrick Monckton as a wheelchair bound patient is hilarious and one can only hope that Dennis Ramsden, a master of the art of farce, whose mere lift of the eyebrow says it all, will continue along with his wife Christine Russell to be persuaded out of retirement.
Jacqueline Clarke is the formidable Matron who finds herself clinging on to the windowsill while being stabbed with a hypodermic needle. Yes of course it’s crazy but it is delightful entertainment, skilfully directed by Ron Aldridge.

Sheila Tracy