Two into One

Posted by Laurence Green

Ray Cooney's farce Two into One thrills audiences at Menier Chocolate Factory.

Two into One, Ray Cooney

It is surprising how fresh and funny a farce can appear 30 years after it was first staged but this is certainly the case with Ray Cooney’s Two into One which returns in an hilarious new production at the Menier Chocolate Factory, that Cooney also directs and stars in.

The action is set in a plush Westminster hotel where a junior Home Office minister in Mrs Thatcher’s government is planning a tryst with one of the PM’s secretaries. He gets his put upon private secretary to book a room under a false name, only to find his wife returning from a matinee of Evita.

The minister’s wife however finds herself strangely attracted to this plump official who is accustomed to leading a blameless life with his old mother, and although she tries to lure him to bed she ends up under the sheets with her own husband! But this is not the end of the matter as the mistress comes onto the scene, soon followed by her husband and the web of intrigue, his and assumed identities become ever more complex and demented.

Cooney, now 81, has long been known as a master of farce and, if proof were needed, it is here. Indeed the various permutations he works on: the theme of people desperately trying to explain why they are in the wrong bedroom with the wrong person at the wrong time are positively inspired in their virtuosity. Furthermore the production achieves the correct delirious momentum which makes the implausible seem highly plausible.

Michael Praed is marvellously persuasive as the suave, supercilious, philandering Tory minister, suitably named Richard Willey. Josefina Gabrielle is delightfully sexy as his wife with plans of her own. Nick Wilton is superb as the ministerial aide, exuding mounting desperation as he constantly tries to lie his way out of disaster, even to the point of pretending he is having an affair with a tea-boy in the Foreign Office. Jeffrey Holland is admirable as the strong-faced, sternly disapproving hotel manager who at one point remarks “There’s far too much sex in this hotel and I’m not having any of it.” Jean Ferguson as a Labour MP who prowls the corridors like a female bloodhound and Kelly Adams as the minister’s mistress also impress, while Cooney himself raises the roof as a incompetent waiter who performs Kung Fu moves and has his hand constantly extended for a tip.

A further word of praise must go to Julie Godfrey’s eye-opening hotel suite design.

This undoubtedly is a production which will have you in stitches of laughter from beginning to end and richly deserves a West End transfer.

Two into One

Runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until Saturday 26 April 2014.

Box office: 020 7378 1713

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