Boeing-Boeing Reviewed: Mile High Debauches Brought Down to Earth

Bernard (played with disarmingly sly insouciance by Christian Dent) has created a man’s heaven on earth in his cosy Parisian apartment: he has a devoted (if cantankerous) maid, international cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and three beautiful air-hostesses from America, Germany and france as his lovers.

As Bernard so flippantly explains it to his slightly incredulous, albeit grudgingly admiring friend Robert: “You have all of the advantages of married life with none of the drawbacks.” Oh, and he tosses in for good measure that “there’s no chance of ever getting bored…in the bedroom. It’s paradise.”

With a scantily-numbered cast of six characters, three acts and no set changes, the play could have easily slipped into a state of stagnation. After all, familiarity not only breeds contempt, but boredom. However, all fears of monotony were swept away by the dynamic stage presence of the characters; Janet, the VAL air stewardess (played with a smile worthy of a Colgate ad by Bridget San Miguel) delights with her endearing Americanisms, and as she opens the play, her gusto immediately lends the play a sense of exuberance. Jacqueline (Rosalind Moran), the French stewardess, is played with a passionate and romantic gusto worthy of her nationality and Judith (Sarah Edwards) injects a sense of humour into the play through her impassioned defence of sauerkraut and flirtatious hostility with Robert.

But while the three ladies do an impressive job of differentiating and subtly portraying what could have easily been trope characters, the real comedic touches of the play comes in the form of Robert and wry Berthe the maid (Anne Forsythe). Lucas Roche-Poggi as Robert perpetually delights with incredible facial expressions that conveys the emotive tones of the play – this was something much appreciated as this reviewer ne parle pas franςais. (But don’t worry – to all you English-speaking plebeians out there, English subtitles will accompany the play on a screen). Berthe as the long-suffering, yet resignedly pragmatic help (“No! New job, new problems. What’s the point?”) possesses a dry wit that is chock full of funny truths and wry observations.

Exhibit A: She resigns at the moment of peak confusion, madness swirling in the apartment as Bernard’s polygamy falls apart – adorned in a jaunty beret and Scottish Airline pouch hanging around her neck. She’s the embodiment of aesthetic comedy. Oh, and she stays because she manages to wrangle a 30% raise.
So – a spirited cast of characters, clad in clever costuming that visually supports the impeccable characterisation, sprinkled with a bit (okay, a lot) of French gusto. What could go wrong?

Well … not much. Although I do have a bone to pick with the lighting – its simplicity does not detract from the main action on the stage, but a few questionable dimming moments do. Keep in mind though, that this reviewer did attend the dress rehearsal, so I’d imagine that all technical glitches would be ironed out by the start of the run. (Also, this reviewer may be slightly more critical of sound and lightning as she had fifty lightning changes during her stint as the lightning maestro for the Ursies play. Fifty.)

I suppose I should discuss the plot now – we begin with Janet, then Jacqueline and finally Judith visiting Bernard, all without friction, clocking in and out of his apartment like – well, clockwork. As Bernard says, “It’s all in the timetable.” So much for Act I. In order to avoid spoilers, I won’t divulge too much, but as you can imagine, it all inevitably degenerates into a state of chaos, cacophony and Frenchmen running around like headless chicken (hint: cancelled flights, early arrivals, ruined timetables). Shit hits the fan, as they say. Physical comedy is a highlight during this period of mania – under the guidance of director Claire Seton – with the one-set room (albeit an interesting and lively one) and its multitude of doors transforming into a labyrinth of panic. So, we have dynamic movement across the stage and utilisation of the whole theatre as a stage area – did I say claustrophobic setting earlier? What claustrophobic setting?
That may have been posed as a rhetorical question – but don’t take my word for it; come to the French Collective’s play yourself to experience a night of duplicitous mayhem and relationship mischief.

Boeing-Boeing is run by the ANU French Collective, a group which aims to promote French language and culture at ANU by running various events throughout the year – including conversation groups, wine and cheese nights, movie nights, breakfasts and fondue nights.
Boeing-Boeing runs from Thursday October 16 through to Saturday October 18 at 7:30pm at the Drama Labs in the ANU Arts Centre.

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