reviewed at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch on 29 August
Ken Ludwig’s programme note for the UK première of his A Fox on the Fairway contains a pointed reminder to critics in its audience that farce is a matter of joy, of catharsis through laughter. It is a specific theatrical genre and has to be accepted on its own terms.
The production by Philip Wilson should, when it has fully settled in, be seen in this context. The best farce stagings give a sense of effortless ensemble work, and this hasn’t yet quite jelled – though you can’t fault the timing of the proliferating sequences of entrance and exit through swing and terrace doors.
We are in a golf clubhouse with a well-detailed set by Colin Falconer which transform smoothly into the course itself for the final scene, which culminates in a sort of Morris dance with golf-clubs choreographed by Sally Beck Wippman. The story concerns the rivalry between a visiting team and the resident one which comes to its head with a tournament.
There’s a pair of young lovers – Louise Hindbedder (Ottilie Mackintosh) and Justin Hicks (Romayne Andrews), both club employees but with hidden fairway talents. Henry Bingham (Damien Matthews) is the harassed Quail Valley club manager with Simon Lloyd as his more-than-brash opposite number Richard “Dickie” Bell.
Also involved in the romantic and sporting confusions are divorcée Pamela Peabody (Natalie Walter) and Henry’s battle-axe of a wife Muriel (Sarah Quist), a lady who packs a mean punch. With the possible exception of “Dickie” with his repertoire of gaudy sweaters and trousers, the audience finds itself firmly rooting for the well-acted characters to find happy solutions to their problems.
Which is just what happens. of course it does. It’s great fun while it lasts – even if you don’t begin to understand the finer nuances of the game.
Four and a half-star rating.
A Fox on the Fairway runs at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch until 16 September with matinées on 31 August and 9 September.