Two Into One at the Menier Chocolate Factory
Tacky, ridiculous and crass, Two Into One is everything a good farce should be. First produced back in 1984, starring Donald Sinden and the late Michael Williams, this revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory may appear to be aimed more towards an older generation of farce lovers but it is as relevant – and as funny – today as it ever was.
Directed and written by Ray Cooney, who also stars as the bumblingly eager yet easily confused hotel concierge, Two Into One is crammed with (unachieved) adultery, misunderstandings and cover-ups. Cooney is a highlight as a veteran writer, director and actor now in his 81st year; he plays the character of the incapable waiter with knowing yet genuine charm, fully aware of what he does to an audience with just the mere shake of a leg.
The play is set in the Westminster Hotel, where MP for Thatcher’s conservative party Richard Willey and his wife are staying before a political debate. Needless to say, Mr Willey is planning on having a midday rendezvous with one of Thatcher’s secretaries while his wife goes off to an Evita matinee. As is inevitable, however, not all goes to plan and Willey’s parliamentary private secretary, played by a balding, awkward and loveable Nick Wilton, futilely tries to cover for his boss as everything spins wildly out of control.
If seeing Two Into One for the first time, you may be briefly sceptical of the play’s set up, fearing that Cooney has stepped on the toes of John Cleese and the classic Fawlty Towers. But Cooney’s play, written just five years after the show’s final episode, proves that it is as authentically British and as well-written as its hotelier predecessor. One and a half hours longer than the average Fawlty Towers debacle however, Two Into One proves it is much more inspired by Feydeau – the master French farcist of the 20th century – sustaining belly laughs and pace throughout. Julie Godfrey’s perfectly designed set helps with this, switching seamlessly from the hotel’s gaudily wallpapered reception to the identical two central rooms and back again.
If you’re new to farce, be prepared to just roll with the absurd and the ridiculous, and revel in the sheer chaos of the thing.
Photos: Catherine Ashmore
Two Into One is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre until April 26th 2014, for further information or to book visit here.