UK tour for John Cleese's first stage farce | Bang Bang! is an adaptation of 1892 French play © Rose d'Or

UK tour for John Cleese's first stage farce

Bang Bang! is an adaptation of 1892 French play

The first stage play written by John Cleese is to embark on a UK tour.

Bang Bang! is an adaptation of Georges Feydeau’s 1892 farce Monsieur Chasse, about a man who claims to be going on hunting parties when he is actually cheating on his wife, Léontine.

An earlier version of the show premiered at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, Essex, in 2017, directed by Nicky Henson, who had played the playboy Mr Johnson in The Psychiatrist episode of Fawlty Towers.

Now a new production will kick off at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter in February, featuring Only Fools and Horses star Tessa Peake-Jones, Lead Balloon’s Tony Gardner and Wendi Peters, who played Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street.

Bang Bang cast

Described as portraying a ‘door-slamming, trouser-dropping, balcony-climbing night of chaos’, the new show is directed by the Northcott’s artistic director Daniel Buckroyd.

Cleese said: ‘Farce is my greatest love – Fawlty Towers consisted of 12 farces – and I think UK audiences will love this hilarious classic.’

Buckroyd added: ‘We’re thrilled to be working with this fantastic team to launch this first UK tour of Bang Bang! here at the Northcott Theatre; partly because it’s such a funny script and we’ve assembled such a great cast, but also because regional producing venues are the life-blood of UK theatre – developing talent, growing audiences, providing the beating heart of a vibrant creative regional city like Exeter – so we’re proud to be flying the flag for theatre "Made in Devon" across the country.’

After its run in Exeter, which starts on February 6, the play will visit Mold, Peterborough, Guildford, Swindon, Croydon, Westcliff-on-Sea, Dartford and Malvern.

Cleese first revealed he was working on a French farce in an interview with Chortle in 2014. Then he said of the play: ’It's brilliantly plotted. The dialogue is not that great – I can't judge how good it was in the original French, but the English version is just dreadful so I am going to rewrite it all, change a little bit of the plot.’

And he has previously said of Monsieur Chasse: ‘The play is a typical French farce which means almost always that it’s about infidelity, which leads to ludicrous situations where people are trying to hide things which are happening, and pretend that things which are happening aren’t happening.’

The original even contained a reference to dead parrot although that was written out of Cleese’s earlier script.  In one scene of Monsieur Chasse, a doctor called Moricet recalls to Leontine: ‘Do you remember your parakeet? She had just died, your poor little parrot…she had just succumbed, Poor animal, and we were there, all three: you, the deceased, and I. Your husband had gone out. Do you remember your crisis of tears? And I consoled you… And then you let escape this: "I love you".’

The Colchester run of Bang Bang received lukewarm reviews. Awarding just two stars, The Daily Telegraph called Henson’s direction ‘creaky’ and said Cleese had stuffed the script with ‘coarse, cheap jokes.’

While theatre newspaper The Stage gave it three stars and called it ‘a respectful and occasionally entertaining adaptation of an obscure Feydeau farce’.

Published: 16 Oct 2019

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