Sodbury Player’s latest production of the comedy farce Rumours by Neil Simon exploded onto Chipping Sodbury Town Hall Last week.

The play is centred around Charles and Vivian’s 10th wedding anniversary party but as the guests arrive everything is far from what it seems. With Vivian missing and Charles passed out upstairs in the bedroom with a bullet hole in his ear, the guests are left to cover up what has happened and the rumours soon start to fly.

Within the first couple of lines the audience had started chuckling and didn’t stop laughing until the final curtain closed. There is no denying this is a funny script and lots of this humour was well delivered by the troupe of actors on stage. Characters were well established from the get go from the quirky portrayal of Cookie by Tracey Ball to the relishing gossiper Claire, excellent presented by Ro Hall. The argumentative dynamic between politician Glenn Cooper and his wife Cassie could be felt from the instant the two of them walked on the stage.

Typically set in the 1980’s, directors Maggie Allsopp and Ros Kent decided to go with a modern day revamp and bring the show into the current day. With the whole play centred in one location, it was the set that stole the show. It was designed by Rob Creer and was perhaps more stylish than many of our own living rooms. While waiting front of house I heard many compliments on the ‘fantastic’ set. The modern style worked incredibly well and the two hanging lights were particularly effective as it created the sense of a ceiling and helped the audience feel that we were flies on the wall at Charlie and Viv’s anniversary party.

Staging a farce is not an easy feat. The dialogue is fast paced, the storyline gets more and more obscene as the play moves forward and of course the whole thing teeters on the edge of the ridiculous. As spectators we enjoy watching the characters on stage descend into chaos and laugh at the absurdity that unfolds in front of our eyes. However it is a well-known fact that farces are one of the hardest forms of theatre to stage. It requires a rigorous rehearsal process and a cast so in tune with each other that the dialogue and physical work are like watching a well-oiled machine.

I once read somewhere that it is impossible to stage a farce without at least three doors for people to come and go by. Lucky this production had five doors in action which allowed for the numerous comings and goings.

Sodbury Players did a good job at staging the chaos with some fast paced dialogue. One of the greatest farcical moments for me was when the character of Ken goes temporarily deaf.

This naturally allowed the cast to have great fun with all the misinterpretations and provided some great laughs for the audience.

At times I feel the farcical elements of this show could be heightened and taken to the next level especially in terms of physicality. It was a shame that there were several prompts on the night I watched.

As an audience member it instantly draws you out of the action and drops the pace of the show – especially in a farce.

With a cast of ten there was some great ensemble and team work. Each of the actors were well suited to their parts. Nicky Shipton gave a sterling performance as Chris who slowly became increasingly drunker throughout the first act. She never once stopped reacting throughout the entire show with one of my favourite moments being when she headed to the drinks cabinet at the back of the stage and poured a drink consisting of 90% alcohol and 10% tonic.

Steve Crump bought a great sense of sarcasm to the character of Len whose growing frustration with the situation was clear. Towards the end of the show he delivers a cracking two page monologue in an attempt to cover up the evenings suspicious activities. This was an impressive speech which resulted in a well-deserved round of applause from the crowd who were hooked on every word of his story.

A special congratulations to the front of house team and town hall staff for dealing with a medical emergency during the final moments of the show. This was dealt with in an excellent manner and I applaud the cast on stage for being able to keep performing. A truly enjoyable evening.

Tickets are now on sale for Sodbury Player’s Youth Section who are presenting ‘Guys and Dolls’ from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th of July.