Review: Farce flawlessly executed in top-notch production of Don't Dress for Dinner on Kenilworth stage

Charles Essex reviews Don’t Dress for Dinner at the Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth
'The skill of the actors moved the plot along apace’'The skill of the actors moved the plot along apace’
'The skill of the actors moved the plot along apace’

​​Successful production of a farce depends on accurate physical timing of doors opening and closing, people entering and leaving rooms and, inevitably, trousers falling.

But a farce that is linguistic, a menage à six amongst friends and strangers, needs the cast to know their lines impeccably. Once again The Talisman did not disappoint.

As Sir Walter Scott said “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!" Philandering husband Bernard (Paul Sully) had arranged to bring his mistress Suzanne (Paige Phelps) to the rural retreat whilst his wife Jacqueline (Kim Arnold) was away, with Bernard’s best friend Robert (Jack Sargent) also invited as an alibi to the liaison. Farces need an inevitable change of plan and the arrival of Suzette (Sharon Sully) as the cook, so there were two “Suzis” in the house – well, you can see the possibilities.

The clever script had numerous interwoven strands. But it was the skill of the actors, who all delivered their lines flawlessly, that moved the plot along apace. Initially Bernard was the main protagonist, portraying anxiety and expectations with slightly exaggerated expressions. He drew Robert into his deceit, and he had no choice but to play along – after all, he was having an affair with Jacqueline. Suzette joined in their folie à trois who, for financial reward, smoothed over the inconsistencies of their stories. The three of them played off each other superbly with no hesitancy in their delivery.

The set was a single large sitting room in a converted barn, excellently designed by veteran set designer John Ellam. This allowed director Steve Smith to move the cast around the stage to clever dramatic effect as different alibis and explanations threatened to unravel. The arrival of Suzette’s aggressive and short tempered husband (Galli Donaldson) threw another spanner in the works. The whole cast fired on all cylinders. This production was top notch and deserves full houses as it showcases the talent of local amateur theatre.

Don’t Dress for Dinner runs until Saturday May 27. Visit or call 01926 856548 to book.

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