Boeing Boeing

Boeing Boeing
By Marc Camoletti, Hunters Hill Theatre. Director: Chrissie McIntyre. Club Ryde. 8-24 March, 2024

Boeing Boeing has a long history! It was a hit in its native France in 1960. The English adaptation opened in London in 1962 and ran for seven years! And despite some misgivings concerning inferences about American society, the 1965 movie starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis did well overseas. By 1991 the play was listed in the Guinness Book of records as the most performed French play in the world. Multiple revivals over the past 20 years have also done well, some winning awards.

Yet in the enlightened world of feminism and #Me Too, one might wonder why an apparently sexist play about an over-confident architect juggling physical romances with three air hostesses continues to be so popular? Perhaps because it seems farfetched … and farcical! Perhaps because, in the hands of a good director, farce can be very funny!

Chrissie McIntyre proves to be that kind of director. She knows the genre; knows that pace is all important; knows the cast must be on the ball every minute; knows their characters must be over-the-top but believable. And her direction of Boeing Boeing has all the features of good farce: clever blocking, carefully rehearsed choreography, fast dialogue, physicality, colour … and a set where all that can happen.

The Paris apartment designed by Wayne Chee has the necessary four doors and hallways that Camoletti’s plot requires, as well as lots of space for action especially in the second act, where chaos occurs.

Michael Mulvenna plays Bernard, the coolly confident architect who balances his relationships with three fiancées from different air lines based solely on their flight schedules – and his reliance on the discretion of his French maid, Bertha, played by Maggie Scott. Both establish their characters and the brittleness of that relationship quickly and distinctly.

Mulvenna’s Bernard is over-confident and smug, flamboyantly complacent that his unique set-up can’t possibly go wrong … until it does! Scott’s Bertha almost steals the show! Her character’s dubious world-weariness and shrewd perception evident – and sustained – in every entrance, every preceptive aside and every head-shaking exit. It’s good to see Scott back on the stage in a role that she underplays beautifully.

Luke Baweja plays Bernard’s friend Robert. Fresh from country Provence, Robert is awe-struck at Bernard’s menage á quatre and how he manages it. Baweja uses his expressive eyes and gestures to show that initial awe and disbelief. His ease on the stage, lithe physicality and strong comedic timing come to the fore as the action heats up.

The trio of flight attendants bring real colour to the production, both in their personalities and their uniforms, which have been carefully researched and authentically copied by seamstress Joanna Yetsenga.

In a jaunty red uniform is American hostess Gloria, played by Laura Stead. Glamorous but very astute, Gloria seems to be in for the ‘long haul’ but is less loyal than she appears. Stead makes her slick, poised and suave, and almost arrogantly assured especially in her treatment of Bertha … and in a racy scene with Robert

In the blue uniform of Alitalia, Gabrielle Rawlings plays Bernard’s Italian fiancée, Gabriella. Rawlings makes Gabriella very sweet and sexy but quite assertive, especially in the second act where she is caught up in a maelstrom of comings and goings that try her patience and her temper.

Cassandra Gorman is Gretchen, the Lufthansa air hostess. All in yellow, Gorman’s Gretchen is vibrant and assured … until she mistakenly kisses Robert and becomes guilt stricken. Gorman has a strong stage presence which she uses to advantage in playing this bewildered but very bright, open character.

Things become chaotic when changed flight schedules and a storm land all three women in Paris at the same time. Robert is caught in the middle, Bernard loses control, airline bags cause questions, and with good direction, clear choreography, and fast action the resultant frenzy is farcically funny. 

Hunters Hill is delighting audiences with this fast, well-acted and deftly directed production.

Carol Wimmer

Photographer: Daniel Ferris

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