It’s not often you begin a review at the end of a performance but in this case it’s worth making the exception. Following the closure of Out of Order, Shaun Williamson thanks us all for coming and expresses sorrow on behalf of the entire crew at the tragic events that unfolded just over a week ago. It’s a nice a touch and a gesture of class that certainly doesn’t go unappreciated by the audience at the Manchester Opera House.
On to the matter at hand: Ray Cooney has an impressive 70- year career in the theatre with Out of Order certainly being one of his best loved offerings. It began life as a play called ‘Whose Wife is it Anyway?’ in 1990 and has lost none of its charm in the last 27 years.
Set in the Westminster hotel, Richard Willey (Jeffrey Harmer) is a Tory junior government minster, intent on having his wicked way with the luscious Labour secretary to Jeremy Corbyn, Jane (Susie Amy). Unfortunately, things do not go to plan for Willey and the rather macabre killing of a burglar by a sash window, sets the cogs rolling for the impending chaos which ensues. Titters abound as the web of lies draws them in deeper. How will they get out of their predicament?
According to Ray Cooney, ‘the characters must be truthful and recognisable’ and farce is all about ‘ordinary people who are out of their depth in a predicament which is beyond their control’. Updated to include timely comments about our impending election, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and the inevitable squabbling which happens behind the scenes of an election, this play remains as relevant as ever. There are even a few shots at Boris and UKIP too!
The cast is simply fabulous. Everyone has their favourites, whether it’s the hapless, yet cunning waiter (James Holmes), the ‘dolly-bird’ figure of Jane (Susie Amy) or the sweet natured private secretary George Pigden (played with excellent comic timing by Shaun Williamson). For my money the stand out performance of the night goes to Harmer, despite the slimy, oily nature of Willey you can’t help but route for him.
The cast contains some familiar faces to British ‘Sitcom’ including “Allo Allo” Arthur Bostrom who is on good form as the Hotel Manager, as is Sue Holderness from Only Fools and Horses. If anything Holderness is somewhat underused in her role as Pamela Willey the junior minister’s wife.
As with all great farces and comedies, the set is simple and is used well: it is rare that part of the staging gets its own round of applause (in this case, a rather sneaky sash window)! Characters bound in and out of doors, windows and cupboards – comedy theatre at its finest. Every character has their comedic part to play and although the action was sometimes predictable, it was charming and no less funny for that.
In these turbulent times, just over a week after the tragic atrocity at the Manchester Arena, Out of Order was a perfect opportunity to raise our spirits,’ and is testament to good, traditional British comedy. It’ll certainly make you think about climbing out of a window for some time to come!
Out of Order
Until Saturday 3rd of June
Tickets available here
Manchester Opera House, 3 Quay St, Manchester M3 3HP
0844 871 3018