Sedos (Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Company) is one of London’s most widely respected amateur theatre companies. Previous productions of Into the Woods and Three Sisters received critical acclaim. Sedos’ latest production, running from 28th October to 1st November 2014, is Boeing Boeing, a classic farce by French playwright Marc Camoletti.
The English adaptation, translated by Beverley Cross, was first performed in London in 1962 at the Apollo Theatre with David Tomlinson in the lead role. Transferring to the Duchess theatre in 1965, the play enjoyed a successful run for some eleven years.
There have been several very popular revivals and Boeing Boeing has appeared in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most performed French play. In 1965 Paramount Pictures released the feature film, Boeing (707), (more usually known as Boeing Boeing), starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.
Boeing Boeing – a Juggling Act Supreme
In the swinging ’60s, bachelor Bernard just couldn’t wish for more. He has a delightful apartment in Paris and is engaged to the lovely Gloria, the gorgeous Gretchen and the glamorous Gabriella. Yes, you heard right, he’s engaged to all three air stewardesses at the same time, and none of them knows about the others. Bernard is an expert in juggling their different timetables, but sooner or later you just know he’s going to drop the balls!
Boeings get faster, timetables clash, and all of a sudden all three girls are in town at the same time. To complicate matters, Bernard’s friend Robert comes on a visit. Lies, lies, and yet more lies follow, but which lie did Robert tell to which girl? Disaster looms…
Strong Production Values and A Focused Cast
In a play like Boeing Boeing it would be very easy for actors to get carried away by the comedy, but the cast remain totally focused throughout. Without this tight focus, the actors could not achieve the precision timing needed to make this play work. Each player establishes his/her character on first contact with the audience and this is a vital factor as the play progresses. This, coupled with strong production values and excellent scenery, creates a thoroughly enjoyable and outstanding performance. Sedos lives up to its reputation as one of London’s finest amateur companies.
An Interview With Director Roger Beaumont
Director Roger Beaumont speaks exclusively to Decoded Arts about the production:
Decoded Arts: You recently directed the Sedos production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. These two plays are so very different so how does your approach differ with Boeing Boeing?
Roger Beaumont: Farce is really hard! Three Sisters is a wonderful play, but it’s a “what is the meaning of life?” play, if you like. The sisters reflect on their situation – how they came to be there, where they’d like to be – lots of “navel gazing” and, in one sense, nothing actually happens.
Boeing Boeing is also a wonderful play but almost as opposite as you could choose. No reflection or “navel gazing” at all – it’s all about responding in the moment to ever-changing scenarios and seemingly impossible problems created by having three fiancées who don’t know about each other turn up in the same flat at the same time.
The prep is similar – what does the character want, why are they there etc., so that the characters are absolutely grounded in a truth. But the acting in the moment is utterly responsive to their objectives – so not so much about the why as about the how?
Decoded Arts: What are the main challenges in this production?
Roger Beaumont: Like I said – farce is hard. Acting-wise there is no security for the actors in moments of “self-reflection” to let them drift into a scene – it’s more like diving off the top board at the swimming pool and only finding out if you can swim once you hit the water!
There is no easy way to make this a safe or comfortable experience for them, it’s more “work out who you are and now get on with it!” As in life some people find it easier than others, but my cast has been great – really brave and prepared to make themselves vulnerable in rehearsal so that we can end up with a show to be proud of.
Technically – well, there are a lot of doors opening and closing and the timing is clearly crucial. We’ve been blessed with a great design from Phil Lindley. Our Stage Manager Richard Davies has got us rehearsal props really early, and Andy Hind is busy building doors to maximise the time we can rehearse with them. Thanks to all of them.
Decoded Arts: Did you have an “a-ha” moment when a problem was suddenly resolved?
Roger Beaumont: I definitely had a moment when I thought “this definitely is no doddle!” I’ve directed Beckett, Ibsen and Chekhov and in some ways this is more terrifying.
Like the actors, I did all the prep work – knew my Stanislavskian super-objectives etc., and then went “Sh!t! What do we do know?”, apart from climbing to the top board and jumping off. Trying to play farce truthfully is not for the faint hearted, and I can see why sometimes people revert to stereo-types and slap-stick.
Luckily for me the actors resolved my problem for me by taking responsibility for their characters and diving in. So I guess I said, “a-ha – it’s all about the actors.”
To misquote Beckett it’s been a case of “Try, Fail, Try Again, Fail Harder” – but keep going at it until you find something that just might work, and I think we have.″
Decoded Arts: You must have had a lot of fun during rehearsals for this production. What is your favourite thing about rehearsals at Sedos?
Roger Beaumont: To be honest it’s been a roller-coaster – there have been moments when I have struggled to know quite what to do or say to help the actors, but I am stubborn and they have been great so we’ve kept at it and had some great laughs along the way and, as they say, things taste sweeter when you’ve had to work for them.
Sedos offer enormous opportunities and support to their production teams. Open auditions mean that you get to cast from a wide pool of talented actors. And then the people “in the back-ground” at Sedos offer every assistance in bringing the show to the audience. In this respect I’d like to say a particular thank you to Pippa Kyle, if I may. (Pippa is trouble-shooter and go-between, between the committee and the production team.)
Sedos Plans for the Future Include:
- Viktor/Victoria – 26th November-6th December 2014
- The Devils – 17th-21st March 2015
- Legally Blond – 7th-16th May 2015
- Serial Killers – 30th June-4th July 2015
With such a broad range of forthcoming productions Sedos is always on the lookout for new talent. Further details are on the company website.
A Superb Performance – A Great Night Out
Sedos’s production of Boeing Boeing is, as we have come to expect, another excellent performance by all concerned. The production becomes all the more enjoyable when we consider the difficulties of putting on this type of farce as outlined by Roger Beaumont. Sedos may be an amateur company, but it displays a thoroughly professional attitude in all that it does.