Review: How does return of 'rep' at Harrogate Theatre rate?

Harrogate Theatre rep company's Boeing Boeing -  Gretchen, played by Polly Smith.
Harrogate Theatre rep company's Boeing Boeing - Gretchen, played by Polly Smith.

If the return of rep means having a great time, this 20th century theatrical phenomemon may have just found a new place in the 21st century thanks to Harrogate Theatre.

A red carpet opening for vintage farce Boeing Boeing on Tuesday night saw a strong turnout for what was the first of three different in three weeks by the new Harrogate Theatre repertory company.

Harrogate Theatre rep company's Boeing Boeing - Bernard,  played by Alan Drake.

Harrogate Theatre rep company's Boeing Boeing - Bernard, played by Alan Drake.


Bringing back the fabled rep for the first time since the demise of The White Rose Players at Harrogate Theatre in the mid-1950s, is a gamble for the theatre - and a challenge for the nine-person cast.


The latter will have their hands full, as does the central character in Marc Camoletti's famous 1962 farce, come to think of it.


Ensconced in his swinging 1960s retro Parisian pad beautifully designed by the company's designer Andy Newel, the lothario Bernard, played with appropriately slick charm by Alan Drake in full Ben Miller mode has, life on a plate. Or thinks he has.


His perfect world involved having three fiancees at the same time, a trick he gets away with for two reasons - all three of his girlfriends are air hostesses working different shifts for different airlines and his shenanigans are facilitated by the reluctant support of his long-suffering servant Bertha who keeps the whole show on the road.


Well, she does, until Bernard’s country mouse of an old friend, Robert (Philip Stewart) turns up to slowly upset the apple cart or put the cat among the pigeons - the dog!


Such a hit that it inspired a Hollywood film, Boeing Boeing retains its original wit, despite its sexual relations looking decidely dated in this day and age.


What keeps this hugely entertaining show on the road is the pep and pace injected by director Ben Roddy of Ben&Phil Productions - that and the sheer talent and skill of all six of the Harrogate rep players on stage.


Despite having to play up nationalistic stereotypes of a bygone era, the air stewardesses who, fortunately, win the day by the end (at least by 1960s standards) are played delightfully by Polly Lister (Gloria – American), Katy Dean (Gabriella – Italian) and Polly Smith (Gretchen – German).


Perhaps best of all, is Rebecca Wheatley as the exasperated servant Bertha with a hilarious, three-dimensional performance of facial ticks and unfathomable mannerisms straight from League of Gentlemen..

It's wonderful to see it return in such style and I'm tempted to write that rep is back in Harrogate with a bang - but this isn't the 1960s!


Boeing Boeing runs up to and including Saturday September 8.
The versatile nine-person company will next present another another exciting classic - Agatha Christie’s Dial M for Murder which will run from next Tuesday, September 11 to September 15.
The final production for the hard-working Harrogate Theatre rep team will be Noel Coward’s classic Private Lives which runs from September 18-22.

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