Bedside Manners, Norwich

At least it has Tim Brooke-Taylor as the hotel keeper, unstoppably and endearingly playing his favourite role as Tim Brooke-Taylor...

By CHARLES ROBERTS

Having for ever and a year been a devoted theatre man, there's been little attraction in my schedule for television and its icons. But TV does have one great virtue – you can switch it off.

Oh to have had that luxury at the Theatre Royal last night, at Bedside Manners, a predictable, pedestrian farce. Yes, there's plenty of bedside, as opposed to in-bed, activity. There are oodles of slamming doors; a smattering of chuckle-worthy one-liners; and a smidgen of partial undress. Yet it stolidly remains, not so much a “revival” of the pattern of those '70s drop-yer-trousers frolics, as a Living Dead recycling of theatrical clichés.

Even the set has this feel of long-ago déjà vu, with its echoes of Hotel Paradiso. The plot (I use the word advisedly) fits in neatly: two married couples turn up at the hotel on the same night – but not with their married partners.

The production doesn't help much either. There are few fresh ideas in the visual gags department. The first half is funerial in pace and the company has been moulded into the kind of knee-jerk acting and OTT playing which was fine in Hi-de-Hi and 'Allo 'Allo, but which you thought had disappeared from the modern (professional) comedy stage.

At least it does have Tim Brooke-Taylor as the hotel keeper, unstoppably and endearingly playing his favourite role as Tim Brooke-Taylor. There he is, racing up and down staircases, slamming doors with gusto, using every last comic gesture, facial expression and vocal glissando in the book (which he probably wrote), and generally keeping the vehicle moving.

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And the audience loved it, as proven by gusty laughter throughout, and applause at the close which would have gratified the Three Tenors.

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