Sex And The Three Day Week

Written By Stephen Sharkey
Directed by Serdar Bilis
Liverpool Playhouse
Till 10th January 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Photograph by Topher McGrillis

This production, adapted from a 19th -century French farce, has been panned by both local and national reviewers - you could say it went down like a lead Christmas balloon - but I have to admit I quite enjoyed it.

It was simplistic, dated - one critic referenced Brian Rix's Whitehall Theatre stage plays, which were all the rage in the 50s and 60s - but the period detail was spot on - garish clothes, awful haircuts and lousy interior design - and the jokes and puns were that bad they were strangely funny in ways.

The best performing role was that of Sebastian (Javier Marzan), the receptionist of the unfortunately named Paradise Hotel, where next door neighbours, Phil (Edward Harrison) and Cath (Catrin Aaron), as well as a sex-crazed au pair called Fanny (Lucy Phelps) - the use of the name always gets a titter from the audience - and Ben (Robin Morrissey), a graffe-like gormless student, had gone there to get their rocks off.

Mix in the presence at the hotel of Cath's hubby, Rob (Dave Birrell), and an elderly oddball, Miss Mayhew (Eileen O'Brien), accompanied by a caged Mynah bird - the pre-recorded voice was spoken by Liverpool's treasure Ken Dodd, and you have the recipe for a series of eccentric escapades.

Sebastian welcomed the guests by offering them candles (which he broke in half), and would sell them more, if the electricity was cut off. The UK, via Prime Minister Ted Heath, had imposed a three day working week, to conserve coal supplies, after the miners began working-to-rule in order to receive better pay and conditions.

You could see inside the four rooms of the hotel, shown on stage, through gauze-like materials, and the various antics the occupants were up to. This was a clever effect created by designer Hannah Clark.

Another impressive touch was the windswept bike ride, including multitudes of falling leaves, taken by Phil, en route to his assignation with Cath at the hotel.

I also liked the two or three Christmas streamers, still hanging up in Phil's home, early in January, resembling a hangover from the so-called festive frolics.

Now you have people hanging up decorations and having Christmas trees on display inside and outside their homes from mid-November. Now that is what I called a farce.

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