Tuesday, February 27

Foo Foo’s Follies – Rainhill Garrick Society

Fun, frolics, and farce abound in this delightful and original comedy from writer and director Linda Saavedra with its larger-than-life characters, musical numbers, and an unexpected twist you definitely wouldn’t see coming…

The curtains draw back to reveal the Midland, a 1935 art deco hotel, that like most of its guests has seen better days and where waitress Foo Foo (Gerald Walker) exists in a blurred reality. Diana (Lynn Aconley) and Dolly (Rosetta Parker) are on their annual autumn reminisce whilst owner Lord Algernon (Rick Young) and his current belle, Ophelia (Angela Vose), have an eye for restoring the place to its former glory. Throw in a musical chorus of some more unusual guests (Ruth Pollitt, Edi Tinsley, Jo Webster, and Alison Mawdsley) to the accompaniment of a Grand Pianist (Tim Evans), combine with the even odder employees of Googie (Tracey Duffy) and Old Albert (Rob Williams), and you’d be easily forgiven for finding chef Jean-Michel (Tom Nevitt) quite normal.

But when things literally go for a dive, and with Diana somewhat distracted by the heir apparent Toby (Richard Parker), will Foo Foo and Dolly be able to rely upon the wisdom of the Morecambe Mermaid (David Parker) to save the day?

Saavedra has excelled with this black comedy, shortlisted for the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, which calls upon the expertise of a cast she knows all too well and plays to their every strength, with each providing a star(fish) turn in response.

As odd as it sounds, there is a subtlety required when mixing dark humour with liberal doses of double entendre and inuendo, but the balance is there in both script and performance which gave us plenty of laugh out loud moments as well as a couple of sharp intakes when the risk was definitely put into the risqué, but the audience revelled in it anyway.

The set design and construction from Graham Swift were cleverly put together allowing seamless interchanges to be made without disruption to the flow of the play, and with a real attention to detail that reflected a hint of art deco magic alongside the reality of decline with some added funny touches that were used to good effect throughout.

The play draws upon singer-songwriter and satirist Tom Lehrer’s pithy and humorous songs from the 1950s and 1960s, which he has made freely available, and, with occasional tweaks to the lyrics, they support the unfolding action perfectly alongside well-choreographed routines.

There is a strong chemistry and mutual understanding amongst the cast that really helps with making this kind of drama work so well, but what really struck me only a few minutes in was actually how good they all are with stalwarts Evans, Mawdsley, David Parker, Pollitt, Tinsley, Webster, and Young provided sterling support and it was great to see new members Nevitt and Vose really rising to the occasion – no pun intended!

Duffy and Williams served up some superb silent slapstick whilst ‘sisters-in-law’ Aconley and Rosetta Parker really caught the nitty-gritty of that kind of relationship. Richard Parker excelled with a great comic performance whilst Walker sung, danced, acted, and did what he always does so well: entertain – some actors steal a scene because they can; Walker shares the stage and that’s what makes his performances so special.

Foo Foo’s Follies plays again on 13th and 14th May at Rainhill Village Hall with performances at 7.30pm. Tickets are £7.00 (£5.00) and available on the door or by calling the ticket enquiry line on 01744 606067. Given that almost 200 people turned up for opening night, I would start dialling now.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 12th May 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★