Pier Theatre, Bournemouth

Robin Hawdon’s adaptation of the Marc Camoletti farce Don’t Dress For Dinner is jam packed with laughter opportunities and the star studded cast in the Mark Furness/Paul Elliott production at The Pier Theatre exploits them with predictable expertise. The hilariously plausible scenario has husband Bernard, who intends taking advantage of wife Jacqueline’s absence by inviting mistress Suzanne to stay - but Bernard’s alibi friend Robert is also Jacqueline’s lover.

For popular entertainer Les Dennis, it is first time out in farce and he tackles the medium very effectively to augment his considerable success in television series, the musical Me And My Girl, variety and panto. With Lionel Blair revelling in the role of Bernard, Vicki Michelle (from ‘Allo ‘Allo) in delectable form as his wife and likeable Les Dennis playing the friend, there is already abundant humour provided for any evening. But then we notice a face peeping through the window.

It’s Su Pollard and anticipating her performance, the audience erupts with laughter. High expectations are surpassed as she repeats her West End role of Suzette who arrives from a catering agency to prepare dinner. Employing her range of bewildered facial expressions at constantly changing assumed identities and blurting out the laughter lines, it’s a faultless performance which has the co-stars snapping into a higher gear to match her as the pace accelerates.

Enjoyably exhausted from the frenetic action, we are allowed a brief respite when Bernard’s mistress Suzanne arrives. Played by the lithesome Mandy Perryment, she embodies perception of a beautiful bimbo and within minutes is dazedly participating in this orgy of confusions so it’s back to top speed antics. Leslie Mills ably completes the cast as Suzette’s jealously threatening husband George. Designed by Peter Rice, this production is packing the Pier Theatre and appears on course to break previous box office records.

Christopher Day

The Stage 1993