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An absolute farce . . and all the better for it; WHAT'S ON EDITOR GORDON BARR GIVES FIVE STARS TO OUT OF ORDER AT THE THEATRE ROYAL IN NEWCASTLE THIS WEEK.

FEW times have I sat in a theatre and laughed constantly from beginning to end.

But that is just what happened on opening night of Out Of Order at Newcastle Theatre Royal, where it is running until tomorrow.

This is pure, classic farce throughout and something we just don't see enough of these days, especially when it is done as well as this.

A quick trawl on the internet for the definition of farce brings up "a comic dramatic piece that uses highly improbable situations, stereotyped characters, extravagant exaggeration".

Well, Out Of Order has that by the bucket-load and it is frenetic from the off.

One of its stars, Shaun Williamson, earlier told me it was the hardest piece of work he had done and he needs to change T-shirt in the interval as he is dripping with sweat. I now understand why!

I'll set the scene - but believe me, there is a lot, lot more to come from what I'm about to explain.

Tory minister Richard Willey (Jeffrey Harmer) is about to have his wicked way with secretary Jane Worthington (Susie Amy) in the Westminster Hotel, when he is supposed to be at a debate in the House of Commons.

Nobody must find out - not least his wife Pamela Willey (Sue Holderness) and Jane's husband Ronnie (Jules Brown).

But everything is thrown into array when they see a someone trapped in the sash window of their hotel suite - and he appears to be dead! Willey calls his hapless private secretary George Pigden (Williamson) over to the room and everything goes from bad to worse in a farce of epic proportions.

Not only do they have to contend with the "body", played by David Warwick, but also the hotel manager (Arthur Bostrom) and waiter (James Holmes) and, later, Pigden's mother's nurse Gladys Foster (Elizabeth Elvin).

The pace never lets up, as the classic hiding of the body, non-stop entering and exiting of doors and cases of mistaken identities that you find in perfect farce keep you entertained every second - and that is as much to do with Out Of Order writer Ray Cooney's direction as the superb ensemble piece by the actors unfolding on stage.

I will leave it there with regards to the plot - suffice to say there are numerous twists and turns, moments when you know what is going to happen next which makes it all the funnier and the fact it all takes place on the one set shows that with good writing, acting and direction, you don't need all the tricks of modern theatre to keep an audience gripped.

It is also brought bang up to date with references to the election, May, Corbyn and Trump - although the fact the characters do not carry mobile phones with them does date it slightly.

I loved this piece of theatre - one of the highlights of the past year for me and I urge you to get tickets.

Oh, and I will never trust a sash window again!

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 25, 2017
Words:499
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