Sex, books and total chaos

The cast of 'Move Overs Mrs Markham' in action from left - Rhudi Smith, Jim Shaw, Hilary Tasker, Pat McInroy, Caroline Pennant-Jones, Philip Pennant-Jones, James Robb, Gordon Holder and Lisa Maria Woods.
The cast of 'Move Overs Mrs Markham' in action from left - Rhudi Smith, Jim Shaw, Hilary Tasker, Pat McInroy, Caroline Pennant-Jones, Philip Pennant-Jones, James Robb, Gordon Holder and Lisa Maria Woods.

It might be a Latin word, but ‘innuendo’ is something that British comedy has taken to heart and run with, as the Abbey’s latest production demonstrates.

‘Move Over Mrs Markham’ from the Abbey Theatre Club is a tour de force of bawdy one-liners, double entendres, knowing winks and total and utter comic confusion.

The cast as a whole should be praised for their delivery, the fast-paced wordplay and convoluted plot necessitate them being on the ball at all times.

It tells the story of a small London publishing firm which has installed one of the junior partners in a flat above the office which is currently being refurbished.

The possibility of the flat lying empty for an evening has all concerned making plans for some dubious high jinks and the hilarity stems from the fact that no plan survives contact with either the enemy or a scriptwriter, as three philandering couples and a prospective new client descend on the supposedly vacant property.

Real-life husband and wife team Caroline and Philip Pennant-Jones play Mr and Mrs Markham.

Philip is on top form as the over-worked and comically jealous junior publisher, who believes his wife is having an affair.

Not only does he have that to deal with but he must also wrangle randy partner Lodge, pretend to be a butler for their lucrative client and he has one or two intimate and ‘interesting’ brushes with other characters.

Meanwhile Caroline takes charge of the only character with a level-head among the chaos. At the centre of the action it is she who successfully steers the company of misfits and deviants through a very sticky situation.

James Robb is fantastic as interior designer Alistair Spenlow, and really throws himself into the role to bring his character to life with some great lines, physical comedy and even a bit of nudity.

Jim Shaw plays serial womaniser and Markham’s boss Henry Lodge with just the right amount of louche bravado and contributes enormously to the chaos.

His wife Linda (Hilary Tasker) schemes entertainingly and her fake German accent in the final act was worthy of a Bond villain!

Gordon Holder has a good line in blundering buffoons as he plays Walter Pangbourne, Linda’s new lover.

Just as all seems to be settling down Pat McInroy and Rhudi Smith burst onto the stage. Pat as Miss Smythe, a morally upright and successful author who abhors jiggery-pokery and Rhudi as Miss Wilkinson, Lodge’s free and easy squeeze for the evening.

The carefully orchestrated chaos is priceless as everybody ends up on stage at once and has to swap roles in order to keep the puritan Miss Smythe in the dark.

Producer Laura Adam has done a bang-up job keeping this fast-moving and complex show on the tracks and delivering the punchlines.

The ingenious cut-away bedroom is a feather in the cap of the set makers and the costume department have done well raiding the panto wardrobe for Spenlow’s outfits.

Abbey Theatre Club’s golden anniversary season is in full swing thanks to this hilarious farce which runs until tomorrow (Saturday).

Curtains are up at 7.30 p.m. and tickets are £7.