Printable CopyROOKERY NOOK
Tea Tree Players
Tea Tree Players Theatre
Until 31 Aug 2019

Review by Brian Godfrey

If Ray Cooney is the Father of British farce (and he is!), then Ben Travers is surely the Grandfather of the genre; and with puns flying here, there and everywhere in Travers’ 1926 farce “Rookery Nook” (based on his 1923 novel of the same name), it looks as if Alan Ayckbourn and Ken Ludwig may have learnt a thing or two from the master as well.

“Rookery Nook” is considered to be a classic British farce and a perfect example of 1920s and 30s comedies; wordy and full of clever wordplay providing exposition and avoiding double entendres (the censors ink was flowing in those days), with plenty of spiffing young coves and innocent young maidens, and very eccentric characters (cue busybody maids, military duffers and at least one foreigner).

For something as delightfully archaic as this style of play to work nowadays, it requires a director with a deft hand and a very clear understanding of the period. This production has it in Barry Hill. Hill understands perfectly what works and what doesn’t with plays of this ilk. He has gathered a cast that give him and the audience exactly what is required. Plus, he makes a very wordy play fly by with very funny (and well-choreographed) bits of physical comedy handled nicely by the cast. Hill has shortened the original three-acter into two and in order to carry out the scene changes now required, shows his ingenuity once again by having the housekeeper, Mrs Leverett (Chris Galipo) come onstage to clean up, all the while miming and dancing to Roaring Twenties hits – it’s worth the price of admission just to see Galipo strut her stuff!

Speaking of Galipo, she is wonderful as a gossipy, put upon housekeeper – and her ‘Zomerset’ accent isn’t bad either. Another good West Country accent is delivered by Kelly Cusak as Poppy Dickey (gotta love that name!). It might be a tad too good though, as at times we miss what she is actually saying because of her burr.

The other eccentric and purposely ‘over the top’ characters are played gloriously by Mandy Lumb, the sister-in-law from hell; Robert Donnarumma as her very wimpy and very put-upon husband; Steve Mulady flexing his muscles (or bending his knees at any rate) as the very model of an Admiral of the Queen’s Navy; and Tim Cousins showing us what the amalgamation of Kaiser Wilhelm and another famous Teutonic dictator would be in his glorious (and rather frightening) interpretation of Putz (another great comedy character name). And let’s not forget Mrs Possett playing herself! The two fair young maidens are played well by Keyarra Maur and Rhiannon Shapcott.

As the two leads, Adrian Heness and Benjamin Forster are beautifully bungling and fantastically funny. They play against one another superbly and manys the time they seem to act as one, so well do they connect. Forster, in particular, reminded this reviewer of Terry-Thomas, Leslie Phillips and Bertie Wooster all rolled into one; how more British could you get!

This ‘feel good’, fun romp is played out on what must be the strongest set in the history of community theatre, designed by director Barry Hill.

Tea Tree Players have a great talent for making us have a good laugh and a great time out – and their “Rookery Nook” does exactly that.