Review: Two Into One

By John Nathan, March 31, 2014
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Menier Chocolate Factory, London SE1

There is one reason why I have never found farce very funny. And the reason's name is Neil Simon. Once the notion has taken hold that comedy consists of Jewish resignation spun into lines of purest dialogue, it's hard to see the laugh-out-loud funny side of a pratfall or a pun, of trousers being dropped and, as with this revival of Ray Cooney's 1984 Thatcher-era door slammer, a philandering Tory MP whose name is Willey.

Well all right. That actually is quite funny.

Set in the lobby of a Westminster hotel and two of its adjoining bedrooms, an exceedingly agile 81-year-old Cooney not only takes over the reigns of this production, but also the role of an inept waiter.

He is sent into a spin by the attempted infidelity of Michael Praed's Willey.

The gags are as broad as they are blunt. But then Julie Godfrey's sliding set provides a wonderfully surreal moment as a doorway follows Willey as he walks down a hotel corridor and the romp hits a critical mass of panicky alibis and frantic evasions.

Willey's parliamentary secretary George Pigden (Nick Wilton) reluctantly aids and abets his boss's libido and in the process finds himself half-naked in Willey's bedroom with Willey's wife (Josefina Gabrielle), while pretending to be both a doctor and the gay lover of a suicidal tea boy from the Foreign Office.

And the irresistibility of a comedy that bludgeons you into laughter eventually wins the day.

    Last updated: 4:19pm, March 31 2014