A Flea in her Ear
Reviewed – 8th November 2018
“The large cast bounce with energy, but this is sometimes at the detriment of clarity and cohesion”
Parisian housewife, Raymonde Chandebise, doubts her husband’s fidelity after he becomes sexually inactive. Confiding in her closest friend, Lucienne, they concoct a plan to test his loyalty, involving a fictitious letter from a secret admirer. Georges Feydeau’s 20th century farce unfolds between a comfortable study and the notorious hotel Coq d’Or, where a libidinous Persian in the closet and a drunken bed-hopping uncle are ingredients for a raucous romp.
The large cast bounce with energy, but this is sometimes at the detriment of clarity and cohesion. Key plot points expounded in the opening scene are hard to grasp due to diction, audibility and the fast pace of the dialogue. Particularly of note, a mishap with some braces and the function of a moving bed are both integral to the play’s comedic effect but are not given the necessary emphasis by the actors and are easily missed by the audience. The opening scene also fails to establish the relationships between various individuals which prevents the audience from appreciating the hilarity of their entanglement. The opening of the second act of the play is far clearer and is well-received by the audience, aided by the comic intervention of Thomas Witcomb as ex-military hotel manager Ferallion.
Sonoko Obuchi’s vibrant set design clearly distinguishes Chandebise’s house and the vulgar hotel. The set makes full use of the large space at Theatro Technis, which perfectly caters to the characters’ escapades. Watching the set change in the play’s two intervals is a spectacle in itself, with a large team appearing to move furniture and with loud drilling taking place to attach and remove partition walls. While this is a minor issue, it seems slightly unnecessary. A more imaginative set would avoid excessive resets and the inconsistencies in staging that later ensue. Amidst all the mayhem, the actors (understandably) commit a schoolboy error, struggling to uphold the illusion of a corridor which links the bedroom and bathroom door.
A Flea in her Ear is dialogue heavy, but the ensemble presents an excellent feat. Michael Claff as both Chandebise and Poche brings a physical humour to the characters alongside the loveable nephew, Camille, played by James Bruce who gives a standout performance. Although stereotyped, exaggerated characters are key to farce, it would be nice to see more variation between the reactions of the other characters to the ludicrous occurrences. There is lot of shouting and screaming which is quite tiring by the third act and detracts from the humorous rampage of the enraged Spaniard, Hominedes (Andre Pinto).
This absurd farce takes us on a long, chaotic journey with a plot that has the potential to induce uncontrollable laughter. For the audience to appreciate the fantastic dramatic irony of this play, the actors must ensure that the audience is in on the joke. With more attention to this, Acting Gymnasium have the basis for a highly entertaining production.
Reviewed by Beth Partington
A Flea in her Ear
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