Fringe Box



Review: Out of Order – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 10 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 10 Mar, 2017

The cast of Ray Cooney’s Out of Order

By Ferenc Hepp

The master of farce, Ray Cooney, is at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this week with Out of Order, which premiered in Leatherhead in 1990.

The show then enjoyed a long West End run at the Shaftesbury Theatre, starring Donald Sinden and Michael Williams in the original cast, winning an Olivier award for best comedy in 1991.

The current tour kicked off in Guildford on Wednesday and the experienced cast includes Andrew Hall (Coronation Street), Shaun Williamson (EastEnders), Sue Holderness (Only Fools and Horses) and Arthur Bostrom (‘Allo ‘Allo!).

Farce is far from easy to stage. The comedy comes from a clever script, fast pace and everyday characters being put in extraordinary situations with the action happening in real time. This piece has all that and more.

A number of doors on stage is very much reflective of this genre and the setting of a hotel suite here allows three of them; one being the main entrance, one going into the bedroom and one into a cupboard.

A rather unreliable sash window also plays a major role as the Tory politician Mr Willey (Hall) is planning a night in the Westminster Hotel with a secretary from the Labour Party, Jane Worthington (Susie Amy) only to discover that someone who has been trying to get into their room has been knocked out by the falling window.

Absolute chaos reigns as they try and hide the body in various places, and we are introduced to Willey’s parliamentary private secretary George Pigden (Williamson), the hotel manager (Bostrom) and a Manuel-like waiter (James Holmes) who all have various roles to play in either trying to discover or hide the truth.

I lost count how many different people the ever suffering Pigden had to pretend to be, as he exclaims in Act Two “I’ve been trying to do my best for everybody” and the ever increasing frustration on Williamson’s face tells this story well.

Hall, as the central character holds the whole farce together masterfully, even when the curtain had to unexpectedly be lowered half way through the evening after the curtain rail on stage came crashing down following one of the many occasions when the sash window violently closed by itself.

However, Ray Cooney proceeded to go backstage from his seat at the back of the auditorium and after a short pause, with no doubt frantic activity by stage management, he emerged and said: “Worse things happen at sea,” and they continued where they left off.

The hilarity only increased and the mishap just added to the enjoyment of the evening. It was difficult not to imagine Bostrom suddenly going into his famous accent from ‘Allo ‘Allo with “Good moaning” but his character, as the slightly camp hotel manager trying to work out what is going on, brings its own humour and he is perfectly cast for this role.

With Elizabeth Elvin as Nurse Foster (Pigden’s mother’s carer), Jules Brown as Ronnie Worthington (Jane’s upset husband who comes to look for her) and a number of compromising physical positions and double takes, this all adds up to an absolutely hilarious evening’s entertainment, and judging by the rapturous applause at the end by a full house on Thursday I think most people agreed with me.

Even the sash window and its operators get their own bows at the curtain call. Ray Cooney is celebrating an impressive 70 years in showbusiness and if this brilliant farce is anything to go by, long may it continue.

The short run at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre continues until Saturday, March 11, but the UK tour takes in various parts of the country until July this year, so if you are a fan of farce or just want a good laugh I urge you not to miss this show.

For Guildford, tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

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Responses to Review: Out of Order – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

  1. Dennis Harvey-Hepherd Reply

    March 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    I went to see the farce ‘Out of Order’ yesterday afternoon (Thursday).

    For the first time in years I left at half time. There were a few weak funny lines but not enough to overcome the poor script, direction and hammy acting.

    I give it only one out of five.

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