Review: Farce is just the tonic for cold winter blues

Teesdale Mercury

LAUGHTER is the best medicine and something members of the Gainford Drama Club cast were able to dole out in spades when they performed their latest production, the classic comedy caper, Lend Me A Tenor, at the village’s Academy Theatre.
The 1986 Ken Ludwig play is an old-fashioned farce, filled with layer upon layer of misunderstandings, mistaken identities, sexual innuendo and unexpected plot twists.
The action takes place in two rooms of a Cleveland hotel suite booked for superstar Italian opera singer Tito Merelli, played by Ian Hanmer, who is booked to play one night only at the opera company.
His late arrival and subsequent reluctance to rehearse is cause for consternation for opera company manager, Saunders, played by Alistair Burns, who superbly channelled Basil Fawlty, and whose dislike for The Bellhop, Bethany Lewis-Burrows, was reminiscent to scenes from Fawlty Towers.

Hapless helper Max, played by Glyn Casswell, has ambitions to sing, and a soft spot for Saunders’ starstruck daughter Maggie, played by Emma Simpson, who wants an autograph (and perhaps something more from Tito).
Tito’s gesticulating jealous wife Maria, played by Kate Nichols, wants her husband’s eye to stop wandering and his appetite to be sated only by her.
Layers of sub-plot start to unravel with hilarious consequences when wine, tablets and a sleeping superstar lead to misunderstandings, impersonations and lots of door slamming, especially in act two with the arrival of opera company members Julia Leverett, play by Jan Richardson-Wilde, and Diana Nedda, played by Maria Lowcock – who was superbly suggestive with just the right amount of lasciviousness.
Performances were delightfully over-the-top and laughter rippled through the theatre almost as soon as the curtain was drawn back.
It is the second time the drama club have staged the show, the first time being back in the late 1990s.
The decision by director Lawrence Chandler to stage it again as their first post-pandemic production, to “give people a laugh” was just what the doctor ordered.
It was just the tonic on a dark, chilly November evening and further proof of why Gainford Drama Club continues to go from strength to strength after 73 years. Bravo.