Review - Out Of Order (UK Tour)

Playwright and actor Ray Cooney is celebrating an unbelievable 70 years in show business, and what better way to do it than with an updated version of his award winning 1990 farce Out Of Order. Having enjoyed a long run on the West End and bagged the 1991 Olivier Award for comedy, it's clear that, at least 25 or so years ago, Cooney's own brand of farcical comedy was hitting the spot for some. Unfortunately though, in 2017 Out Of Order has lost the charm it must have once possessed, and feels decidedly stale. 

James Holmes and Andrew Hall in Out Of Order
Photo credit - Darren Bell
Starring a cast of well-known faces such as Andrew Hall, Shaun Williamson and James Holmes, the comedy follows the antics of Conservative junior minister Richard 'Dickie' Willey, as he attempts to cover up an affair with Jane Worthington, a typist for the Labour Party, after a body is found wedged in the sash window of their hotel room. Hijinks ensue of course, and as the slimy politician tries his best to cover up his indiscretions as best he can, more and more people are dragged into the mayhem. Misunderstandings, malfunctions and mistaken identity give Out Of Order plenty of promise, but unfortunately the play never really elevates above its predictable beginnings, and as such it becomes a trouncing slog, with an overblown runtime padded by unsavoury jokes, and plenty of sexism and homophobia thrown in for good measure. 

The fact that the play begins by introducing the audience to 'Mr Willey' should be all the warning anyone could need that Out Of Order's brash humour isn't exactly for everyone. Certainly plenty of mileage is gotten from the unfortunate surname of the smarmy politician protagonist. The production may boast an updated script, which brings the political aspects of the play into 2017, however while references to May, Corbyn, Trump, and Twitter come thick and fast, all in all Out Of Order feels hugely outdated, with its broad, in yer face, and decidedly unmodish jokes not helping in the slightest. 

Slightly troubling for this updated version is the misogynistic language and content, which jars considerably in 2017. All three female characters are presented as nagging annoyances who double up as sex mad fanatics, ready to jump into bed with the first man who asks. Additionally, and equally uncomfortably, laughs are elicited from the outraged gasps of the hotel's stuffy manager, when he mistakenly believes he has discovered two men engaging in a sexual act in a hotel room, and subsequently insists that they leave. It's clearly meant to be a bit of fun, but comes across as mean spirited for the most part.

The success of companies like Mischief Theatre has proven that there is still very much an appetite for farce when done right, but Out Of Order has sadly not been given a sharp enough update, and feels decidedly out of place in 2017. The star cast perform gamely, and throw themselves into the chaos, especially in the second act, but when all is said and done this painfully old fashioned comedy is pretty indefensible.

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