Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Bang Bang! – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 4 Mar, 2020
Updated on: 4 Mar, 2020

Tony Gardner, as Dichotel, Tessa Peake Jones, as Leonatine, and Andy Secombe

By Ferenc Hepp

Leontine is getting more and more suspicious about her husband Duchotel’s regular hunting trips. Does he only ‘Bang Bang!’ with his bullets or cartridges or is there another motive for him being away so much?

The setting is 19th Century France, and a rather grand Parisian property belonging to Leontine and her husband. The design of the set by David Shields is impressive and realistic with a number of doors in regular use of course: this is a farce written by John Cleese, his first attempt at writing for the stage.

Brought this week to the Yvonne Arnaud by Dermot McLaughlin Productions, Charles H Duggan and Brian Zucker in association with Farces Galore present The Exeter Northcott Theatre production of Bang Bang! is based on Monsieur Chasse by Georges Feydeau. This is a national tour of a new production, the original having had its world premiere at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester in February 2017.

Tessa Peake-Jones as Leontine and Richard Earl as Dr Moricet

Tessa Peake-Jones (best known from ITV’s Grantchester and playing Raquel in Only Fools and Horses) portrays the part of Leontine with Tony Gardner (Last Tango in Halifax) as Duchotel. According to Leontine “The wife belongs only to her husband”, however, she may also have a secret from Duchotel and her encounter with Dr Moricet (Richard Earl) is almost discovered very early on.

Comparing Trousers – Daniel Burke and Tony Gardner

The cast is completed by Vicki Davids, Daniel Burke, Andy Secombe, Wendi Peters, Simon Desborough and Mikhael deVille as other family members, staff and members of the police department. According to Daniel Buckroyd who directs this production “it is, quite simply, one of the best farce scripts I’ve come across in a long time,” unfortunately this is not reflected on stage and the performance on the opening night did not generate enough enthusiasm from the audience necessary for a farce.

The script does have some potential but the direction is rather lazy and uncreative, leading to performances which lack a clear narrative and feels quite flat throughout instead of the belly laughs, anticipation and excitement we should be experiencing. There are a number of subtle asides to the audience and also a rather bizarre few minutes when Peters performs a song during a choreographed scene change by the cast, both of which seemed somewhat superfluous.

Wendi Peters

The character of Babette (Davids) is the only one with a French accent, which is referred to at one point as possibly Belgian, and there is a smattering of modern swear words dotted along the way, both of which attract some sniggers but these are more awkward than appreciative.

According to Cleese “performing farce properly is much harder than acting ordinary comedy” and this is unfortunately very relevant to this adaptation. I am still a huge Cleese fan, especially thinking of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, but the sense of humour in these classic comedies is not reflected here.

According to Leontine’s last line: “In the future try to lie better!” Sadly, should there be a further similar adaptation, it needs to be better.

Bang Bang! runs until Saturday March 7 and tickets are available via: www.yvonne- or by calling the box office on: 01483 440000.

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