On Your Honour

On Your Honourby Roger Leach & Colin Wakefield; dir Nigel Macbeth
Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
30 January – 9 February 2013
3 stars

On Your Honour is a fairly stock farce with all the usual kinds of things that you would expect: sexual infidelity, surprise visits, mistaken identities, hiding in adjoining rooms, states of undress, etc. This is not a criticism; farces definitely fall into the bums-on-seats category and this is a reasonable example of the genre set among the legal fraternity.

The setting is a hotel bedroom where Nick (Alec Brown) has arrived to attend a weekend legal conference. Leaving his wife to stay at his mother’s, he has brought along his sexy young secretary, Toni (Rebecca Gardner Tildesley), for a bit of extra-marital action while he’s not in the conference rooms. Plans are initially disturbed by Hugo (Stuart Lawson) from the next room, who wants Nick’s help at the conference to impress the Lord Chancellor. The arrival of Nick’s wife, Hilary (Jo Beckett), gets the action into full swing, and there are a few others to arrive yet – many of whom are related.

The key components of presenting a farce are pace and timing and, on that score, the cast performed reasonably well for the most part. As a whole, the men did a lot better than the women, with the exception of Rebecca Gardner Tildesley as the secretary, who carried off the part to a T. The other two women were not loud or clear enough to be heard clearly and introduced many unwelcome pauses. Alec Brown and Stuart Lawson handled their parts comfortably and were generally entertaining and convincing. The caricature of the Lord Chancellor, played by Graham Shurvinton, was larger than life and certainly kept the audience amused. For me though, I think that Ben Williams particularly shone as the hotel boy, forever returning with more champagne and smoked-salmon sandwiches and pursuing his own agenda.

The biggest let-down though was the lack of discipline among the cast. Corpsing was rife and there were periods where everyone on stage appeared to be giggling (or at least clearly fighting to suppress it). While it’s important for the cast to enjoy what they are doing, they really needed to have got all this stuff out of the way in rehearsals and exercised more self-control when an audience was present – the comedy itself is heightened this way. While we are all human and an occasional lapse can be overlooked, this was getting to be endemic. Enough said.

Still, the show was entertaining and it was fun.

Millicent Short

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