RAY COONEY PLAYS HAVE MOVED
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RIDGE FILMS - PRESS RELEASE:
‘RUN FOR YOUR WIFE’ IS SET TO RUN AND RUN
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
In The Net (Daily Express)
In The Net (Daily Mail)
In The Net (Daily Telegraph)
In The Net (Evening Standard)
In The Net (The Mail On Sunday)
In The Net (Los Angeles Times)
In The Net (Los Angeles Times)
In The Net (Los Angeles Press-Telegram)
Money! - The Film (Variety)
Money! - The Film (Film
Money! - The Film (Sarasota
Runs In The Family (The Stage and
Runs In The Family (Local reviews)
Cooney - Undisputed Farce Master (The
Stage and Television Today)
Up - The
Musical – All
Upon A Time – All
Dick & Harry – All
March 14th 2006
- The Film
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,
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.
- The Film
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
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.
- The Film
Hysteria Reigns in FUNNY MONEY” Jimmy
“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
CAUGHT IN THE NET
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
the play doesn’t quite ring true, but none of that matters in all the
mobile-juggling, snorkel-wearing physical hilarity.
Thursday August 30th, 2003
CAUGHT IN THE NET
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
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
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
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
Monday 3rd September 2003
CAUGHT IN THE NET
journeyman of genius
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
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
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
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.
Thursday August 30th, 2003
CAUGHT IN THE NET
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
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
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.
September 2nd 2003
CAUGHT IN THE NET
in the farce lane
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
For sheer escapism (albeit quintessentially lowbrow) this show is hard to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
February 18, 2004
FARCEUR'S 'NET' PULLS IN THE LAUGHS
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)
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.
International City Theater at Center Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.,
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
ICT comedy a 'Net' full of laughs
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
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
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
" 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
STAGE AND TELEVISION TODAY
April 25th 2002
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
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
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?
Born London May 30. Educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich
First stage appearance as boy actor in ‘The Song of Norway’ (Palace
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
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
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.
SLOUGH and WINDSOR EXPRESS
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
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
THE OXFORD TIMES
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
Mill at Sonning's hilarious festive farce
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
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.
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
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
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
Jacqueline Clarke’s matron is everything a comedy matron
should be, and more (like window sill acrobat – go and see
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
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.
RUNS IN THE FAMILY
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
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.
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
Farce fits the bill
Looking for an antidote to panto? The Mill at Sonning may have
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
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.
STAGE AND TELEVISION TODAY
November 30th 2006
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY
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
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.