Farce readies for take-off

Members of the company of Boeing Boeing

Members of the company of Boeing Boeing

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A relic of the Swinging Sixties, long-running French farce Boeing Boeing was given a makeover five years ago to great success in the West End and on Broadway followed by a UK tour.

Now Marc Camoletti’s comedy about a lothario simultaneously maintaining three air stewardesses as fiancees with close attention to flight schedules is being staged at the Crucible Theatre

Fundamentally, according to director Jonathan Humphreys, it is a piece of bright and breezy fare to enliven the summer in Sheffield but the Crucible can bring something fresh to what has become the most performed French play throughout the world.

Hitherto in traditional proscenium arch theatres it has involved frantic movement in a confined space played out with geometric precision.

“You have people running in and out of doors but in the Crucible you are right there among it,” says Humphreys. “It requires a solution to bring a new geography to it.

“I have been working with the designer (Fabrice Serafino) to find a way to show it working in an exciting way on a thrust stage rather than end-on.”

And so they have created the room where all the frantic action takes place within a larger space and the audience can see people as they prepare to come in and out of the doors. The stage will be slightly raked and sweep out into the auditorium.

”What the Crucible always offers is the facility to see things at different angles and that’s what we are working on so that all the elements of farce can be appreciated,” continues Humphreys who was at Sheffield Theatres in 2010 - 2011 on a Regional Young Theatre Director bursary. 

As well as directing The Village Bike and Happy Days in the Studio he assisted on Me and My Girl and Racing Demon in the Main House.

“I came to appreciate how demanding it is for the actors. With a proscenium arch you have to fill the space but on a thrust stage the emphasis is on the actors within the space.”

Serafino, who previously worked with Humphreys on The Village Bike, is French and the play is set in Paris but that’s coincidental. “With the apartment we have made a strong statement about the Sixties period and the geography within it but it’s not a naturalistic Paris set.”

The Sixties setting is one thing, but what about the dubious morals which were presumably more acceptable when Boeing Boeing first appeared in 1962?

“Part of it is understanding the world of farce where attitudes are not necessarily attitudes of the world we live in,” suggests the director. “Farce presents a vision of how we as humans are and in that sense is amoral or at least it doesn’t assign blame.”

Boeing Boeing opens at the Crucible on Thursday, May 15, and runs until June 7.