‘A Flea in Her Ear’ follows Raymonde Chandebise, deftly portrayed with verve and energy by PJ Cunningham, who begins to doubt the fidelity of her husband, Victor Emmanuel. With the help of her loyal friend, Lucienne (the truly exceptional Toni Taor), the girls construct a plan to discover if her husband is cheating. They write him a letter, in Lucienne’s handwriting, from a fictitious admirer, requesting a rendezvous at a local hotel with a dubious name and even worse reputation.
Chadebise’s house is filled with many other interesting characters, appearing in and out of many a door at opportune moments. Camille, the young nephew of Victor Emmanuel, who suffers from a speech impediment, was hilariously portrayed by Theo MacDonald. A stalwart of the house is the good, or should I say slightly questionable, Dr. Finache. Ted Walliker’s dead pan delivery and comic timing were a constant source of much amusement to the audience and Romain Tournel, the loyal friend and colleague of Victor who always has one too many stories to tell, was effectively and skilfully played by Will Chambers. Tom Chesterman’s portrayal of Don Carlos Homenides De Histanguawas was one of the funniest things I have ever seen on the Cranleigh stage. The costume, the accent, and the unbelievable stamina worked together to create a truly hilarious performance.
Act Two introduces us to the hotel manager, Ferallion (Adam Forrester), his wife Olympia (Ella Batham-Reed) and the maid with some real attitude, Eugenie (Elsa Hardcastle). The pair provide sub-standard hotel accommodation with the very real benefit of providing an alibi should a questionable spouse come a calling. Baptiste (Hugo Puddle), or old achy bones, masterfully diverted the attention with moans and wails of his rheumatism creating the perfect alibi, well at least that was the plan. One of the hotels frequent visitors is Freddy Austin’s, Rugby, and his constant appearances in desperate search for a mate added to the hysterical madness of this insalubrious establishment.
The crux of this play is truly revealed in Act Two. At its heart, as so many classics of the genre, is that age-old problem of mistaken identity. The new porter, Poche, looks suspiciously like Victor Emmanuel and Ben Claxton’s remarkably effective multi-rolling, not to mention some death defying quick costume changes, showed some quite considerable performance skill.
Act Three sees the confusion persist as all the characters are reunited again at Victor Emmanuel’s house. Etienne, Chandebise’s butler (Jack Mckee) and Antioniette (Laura Pollard), storm onto the stage, Raymonde tells Victor the cause of her suspicions, and he assures her that he will put an end to her doubts—tonight.
With any farce the cast are reliant upon an effective set, and most importantly some well-oiled doors. Georgina Le Saux’s set design skilfully, realised by Nick Johnston and Mark Jenkins, transported the audience. Emma Wallis skilfully mastered her stage crew team and without Henry Macpherson, Charlotte Dagones, Willow Senior, Ben Whalley, Hugo Bonsey , Callum Job, Seb Bell and Ned Weston the show could simply not have worked.
The whole production was a miraculous feat of planning and timing, all testament to the impressive preparation and skilful direction of Emily Sinclair. A truly riotous, deliciously naughty, way to end the Michaelmas term.
Director of Drama
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