‘Boeing Boeing’ was a celebration.
In the late 1960s, Ipswich Theatre Society Inc. converted the Ipswich Incinerator into a performance space, changing the structure and using it as a theatre. In November 1969, the theatre group performed its first play, ‘Boeing Boeing’, and in celebration of 50 years they have opted to produce that same play, and what a success.
From the moment the audience walked into the courtyard, they felt the celebration of this milestone. The venue was jam-packed with party gear and historical artefacts including funny stories, details of life members and most impressively, a banner that looked like an arrival and departure board listing all 251 plays the group has performed over the past 50 years. It was a nice touch and created ambience.
‘Boeing Boeing’ is an iconic farce. A French bachelor, named Bernard, and his lovely female flight attendants, all from three different countries who all believe they’re engaged to him. He’s able to juggle these women due to his detailed timetable of their flight schedules. What he did not foresee was the arrival of the airline’s new planes, Boeing’s, which are faster and more reliable. This throws his schedule out entirely and Bernard, with help from his friend Robert, struggles to keep the women from learning the truth.
Sam Hoepner’s portrayal of Robert was a true highlight. He panicked and jittered throughout the entire play, and became the backbone of the production. As the leading culprit, Bernard, Shane Mallory’s was a devilish sleaze who brilliantly lost his marbles when chaos happened around him. Bernard’s housekeeper, Berthe, portrayed by Gillian Simpson was played brilliantly dry. She aided the farcical action, which caused the audience to laugh at her many quips.
Providing equal levels of talent and engagement were also the three multi-cultured flight attendants. Kahli Williams was commanding as the American southern belle, Gloria; Anna Bentley shined as the Italian hostess, Gabriella; and Alizah Pomery stole the show with her hopelessly romantic German, Gretchen. With the exception of a few line errors, the entire cast was outstanding and captured the manic energy of this comedy. However, after viewing the script, the scene in question in Act 2 was actually intentionally written with line errors – so even more kudos to the ensemble!
Co-directors Helen Pullar and Robyn Flashman created a strong sense of purpose in their production. Like any farce, most of the humour is left to interpretation and timing. Both directors clearly understood the need to ensure no action or dialogue, including side gags, was out of place. Lines and blocking gelled well, and left the audience in stitches several times.
The mid-1960’s costumes were mesmerising. Each outfit stood out with vibrant colours and detailed airline logos. Similarly, the set looked beautifully crafted and was nostalgic for those who lived in the decade. Congratulations to Ian Pullar, for a realistic but useful set design. The dashing set was a lavish Paris flat, litter with six entrances and stunning paintwork. Pullar is noted as having designed the set for both this rendition, and the groups original in 1969.
As time goes by, many theatre groups and venues come and go. It is endearing when a local theatre and their members reach such a substantial milestone. There was no better way for Ipswich Little Theatre to celebrate this than by putting on a well-polished, rib-tickling production that was ‘Boeing Boeing’, which also paid tribute to their past successes.
‘Boeing Boeing’ runs until Saturday, 30 November 2019, at Ipswich Little Theatre. Visit Ipswich Little Theatre’s Website to find information about the show and tickets.
Photos by Robyn Harm