Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Fox on the Fairway, Canberra Rep, Theatre 3

The end-of-year knees up at Rep is a regular tradition - it's been going on at least as long as I've been going to Rep stuff (back with 2001's production of "Black Comedy"). They haven't always been farces (one of the bigger end-of-year hits was Duncan Ley's "And then there Were None" which was pure Agatha Christie Thriller), but there's always been a sense of fun, of running off the leash a bit.

However, that running-off-the-leash is a little deceptive -  particularly with farce, that most tightly-controlled of genres, where the threat of discovery and disaster lurks just around every corner and part of the fun is in seeing how it is avoided at the last minute (it's like watching car-racing expecting to see people nearly-crash).

"Fox on the Fairway" doesn't quite get there - it's partially that Ken Ludwig is a fairly gentle farceur as they go (his characters are never particuarly punished for their transgressions, and he's very fond of his deus-ex-machina happy endings for everybody), but I think it's production-related - much of the staging feels a bit ... undetermined. There isn't the speed, the promptness, the purpose-of-movement that gives farce its energy.

Jim Adamick, Rachael Clapham and Bridgette Black are capable, skilled, charming, familiar actors and they're amusing in their roles. Martin Hoggart is less familiar but seizes his fresh-faced role with gusto and skill. Andrew Price perhaps over-emphasises the stuck-up villain side of Dickie and underemphasies the stupidity, leading to a slightly awkwardly-angled performance, while Natalie Waldron's performance doesn't quite get the tone right - playing two-dimensional characters larger than life so that they fill all the space that would otherwise be occupied by the third dimension.

I don't know whether Andrew Kay's set is too large or Liz Bradley's direction is just unable to manouvre the actors around the stage effectively, but in the wide-open spaces characters sometimes felt lost on their way to the next exit.

I don't want to sound like "Fox on the Fairway" is a waste of the audience's time - it's often fairly amusing. But it could have been riotous. And instead... it's a gentle giggle. A pity.

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