Aug 14 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩ Frantic fun

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241)
Mon 11 – Sat 16 Aug 2014

Energetic, consistent and farcically daft, Arkle Theatre Company’s production of Rumours provides some diverting entertainment.

John Lally and Michelle van Rensburg. Photo: Rob Shields

John Lally and Michelle van Rensburg. Photo: Rob Shields

Neil Simon’s excursion into full-blown farce eschews any of the slow set-ups usually to be found in the genre, instead starting at a moment of extreme panic and then attempting to keep the pace up.

Guests arriving at the party for Charlie and Vivian’s tenth wedding anniversary discover that the hostess has disappeared and the host has been shot in the ear. As is so often the case, their first instinct is to cover things up, leading to a frenetic series of lies and misunderstandings.

The setting of the play has been shifted from New York to London in this ‘English stage version’ and, apart from a couple of strange references, this works surprisingly well. As with so many farces, it is best not to look too closely at the plot, as it would fall apart under close scrutiny. Instead, the main aim must be to maintain a high enough level of energy and commitment to keep the forward momentum. This is largely achieved.

Renee Philippi and Pat Hymers, who play Chris and Ken, the first guests to arrive, have the difficult task of setting the tone of the production. Hymers’s frantic exasperation threatens to become too exaggerated at times, but he manages to be consistently funny. Philippi’s more low-key performance helps to ground everything in some sort of reality.

naturally humorous presence

The next couple to arrive, Len and Claire, provide the evening’s highlights. Claire is a stereotypically ditzy blonde who could be extremely annoying, but Michelle van Rensburg has a lightness of touch and naturally humorous presence that helps carry off the role. John Lally’s Len is hugely funny, combining a deadpan vocal delivery with effective physical clowning.

The next couple, Cookie and Ernest, are much more exaggerated grotesques, but Suzanne Senior and David Scott’s commitment to the roles make them believable. Senior’s bemusement, yelps of pain at her ‘back spasms’ and voluminous dress, together with Scott’s descent from bonhomie into shrieking, finger-wagging recrimination, help mightily to keep the whole thing bowling crazily along.

The final couple, Glenn and Cassie, are perhaps not quite so successfully realised. Elenid Roberts takes time to settle into the rhythm of the piece and never quite reaches the right level of wronged petulance, while Bronagh Finlay’s Glenn is a poised enough performance that nevertheless does not fully convince, particularly as a prospective Conservative MP.

Director Ian Aldred manages to keep the pace high, and utilises the acting space excellently, but even he cannot stop there being lulls in proceedings. There are a few too many developments in the plot that are too similar, and the second half seems to be treading water to a large extent. This is partially redeemed by Graham Bell’s exemplary straight man act as PC Collins, aided by a pleasingly ludicrous cameo by Karen Lloyd as PC Campbell, and a bravura monologue by John Lally.

The dip in pace means the production never really makes the step from happy amusement into full-blown hilarity. However, it is well performed and well staged, and well worth a look.

Running time 1 hour 40 minutes (no interval)
The Royal Scots Club, 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE (Venue 241)
Mon 11 – Sat 16 Aug 2014
Daily at 20.30
Tickets from
Company website



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