Sometimes, as I watched the hilarious high-jinks on the stage of Upper Canada Playhouse during the debut of its new production, No Sex Please, We’re British, I kept having visions of director Richard Bauer, in rehearsals.
He was invariably dressed as a ringmaster.
This is not a play where one or two events, even three or four, take place simultaneously. No, it is a regular three-ring circus of a play with outrageous lines and actions, and a cast that springs into action in Act I and never slows for breath.
Judging by the explosions of laughter from the audience, that is just fine with them.
No Sex Please, We’re British, continues a Playhouse tradition of presenting outstanding farces as part of the summer season. This classic play by writers Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot, has been performed in over 52 countries to date.
With a cast of 10, most of whom may actually be dashing about the stage at any one time, Bauer is working with very talented, not to say, agile and energetic actors.
The plot of No Sex Please is a clever mishmash of the morals and complications of life in the 1960s. London might have been swinging in that decade, but the household of newly weds, Peter and Frances Hunter, is definitely not supposed to be. Unfortunately, Frances’ (Katie Lawson) innocent attempts to start a home business by replying to a newspaper ad, go sadly awry. Instead of family glassware, in short order, Swedish post cards (not of the Alps!), plain brown wrapper covered books and 8 mm films (with titles like Dick Turpin Rides Again…and Again and Again) arrive at the Hunter flat non-stop.
Peter (Derek Moran) a junior in his conservative bank, simply cannot afford a pornography scandal. Laws being what they were in London in the 1960s, he simply must get the stuff out of his home and far, far away.
Or, as plodding Superintendent Paul, (Zack Counsil) investigating a pornography ring rumoured to be in the neighbourhood, puts it, “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That’s why we do such a thorough investigation.”
Frances: So you can prove they’re innocent?
Superintendant Paul: No. So we can prove them guilty.
With Eleanor, Paul’s pretentious mother (Linda Goranson) arriving for an extended stay, her new beau, the snobbish banker, Leslie Bromhead (Walter Learning) constantly underfoot, and stuffy bank examiner, Mr. Needham (Shaun Clarke) unexpectedly bunking in the spare room, the Hunters can barely keep track of the crises they face.
Enter Mr. Runnicles, Peter’s friend from the bank.
Brian Young is splendidly funny as Runnicles.
Never has a man triggered more wrong in his muddled, desperately sincere efforts to do right, than Mr. Runnicles. All he came to the Hunter flat to do was deliver a belated wedding gift, a (rather garish) painting of Vegetables of Provence (“The French have very big cucumbers…”).
Immediately, unintentionally, Runnicles finds himself the notorious Phantom Pornographer, sought by the police. Charged with getting rid of the erotica by a frantic Peter, Runnicles hilariously discovers that it appears to be stubbornly indestructible. Neither toilets, garbage disposals, St. Mark’s Rummage sale, nor the mighty Thames itself, appear capable of eliminating these Swedish imports.
Then Susan and Barbara, two very ‘avant garde’ ladies (Katie Leamen and Jackie English), who may just possibly be Swedish (Oh, dear!) arrive, determined to help “smooth things over.”
Full of extraordinary sight gags, triple entendres, lovable if mad characters, and a laugh about every 60 seconds, No Sex Please, We’re British is delightful summer fair.
As Mr. Runnicles hopefully puts it, “You have to keep cool in a crisis. Think it through.”
No one does.
Isn’t that half the fun of farce?
For tickets to No Sex Please, We’re British, contact Upper Canada Playhouse at 613-543-3713 or go on line at uppercanadaplayhouse.com. The play runs until August 25.