Boeing Boeing – A Fun Ride On An Old Classic

As the lights dimmed and the last few people made their way to their seats, I turned to my friend and said they should play the message tone familiar to anyone who’s hopped on a plane. Moments later, there it was, that familiar sound, followed by a tongue-in-cheek announcement mimicking cabin crew telling us the onboard entertainment would be live. It made me smile like a little kid getting ice cream. In an instant, I knew this was going to be fun, and I settled in for take-off.

Marc Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing has been a theatre staple since its first French production in 1960, even made into a movie starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. Set in 1960s Paris, contemporary at the time, it’s aged into a retro comedy about a deceitful Lothario, Bernard, juggling three separate fiancés who are all air hostesses. Thanks to alternating airline schedules, each comes home for a short time believing they’re Bernard’s one true love while remaining oblivious to the others. The energetic farce kicks off when Bernard’s old friend Robert arrives, and interruptions to the schedules throw the routine into chaos, sending the women into a turbulent collision course.

Michael Mulvenna seems at ease playing the womanising Bernard, oozing sophistication and charm in the early stages and then descending into panic and terror as he loses control. Each of his three fiancés in their colour-coded uniform brought their characters to life with exaggerated accents and outstanding energy.

In red, there’s the confident and sassy American, Gloria (Laura Stead); in blue is the fiery and temperamental Italian, Gabriella (Gabrielle Rawlings); and in yellow, the carnal and loud German, Gretchen (Cassandra Gorman). (As an aside, the sets and costume design are terrific.) Luke Baweja does a great job as the nervous Robert, trying desperately to keep the women apart as they play musical rooms. His physical comedy often triggered the biggest laughs, and his manic nervousness created a sense of exhaustion whilst still allowing the fun to continue.

My highlight was Maggie Scott as Bernard’s long-suffering and grumpy maid, Bertha. Her sardonic French accent and defeated body language were constantly amusing, and she was a delight every time she shuffled onto the stage and sighed, ‘Yes, monsieur.’

While the play is a classic for good reason, the story risks becoming outdated, such as Bernard’s pride in his ‘clever’ deception and manipulation of women or Richard’s admiration of it. Luckily, it isn’t mean-spirited, and the women give as much as they get.

The play deals with Bernard’s womanising in a way that justice is served while still making everyone happy. Director Chrissie McIntyre rightfully focused on the tomfoolery and physical comedy to keep the audience laughing throughout. The cast attacked the material with energy and enthusiasm, which is vital in making a play like this work. It’s meant to be silly and fun, so if you don’t buy into the characters and absurdity of the situation, or if the actors hold back, you don’t laugh. Thankfully, I did, and so did everyone else.

Boeing Boeing is a fun, light-hearted retro romp that’s boarding at the Hunters Hills Theatre in Club Ryde until the 24th of March. Don’t miss your flight!

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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