A Full-Blown Madcap Farce – “NO SEX PLEASE, WE’RE BRITISH”

St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened “No Sex Please We’re British” on April 17 on the Matuza Main Stage. It will run through May 10, 2015. Call 904-825-1164 or visit limelight-theatre.org for reservations.

The show is a full-blown madcap farce but is a bit of a history lesson as well. Read on. The play, written by Alistair Foot and Anthony Marriott, opened in London’s West End in 1971, and reflects the concerns and values of the era. The comedy was a big hit in England, and played until 1987 at three different theatres.

It is set in the small town of Windsor, England, in an upstairs apartment; a business, the National Union Bank occupies the first floor. The apartment is the new home of the bank’s assistant manager, newlywed Peter Hunter, and his bride Frances. Matthew Whaley and Kathryn Suddard are both making their Limelight debuts in these roles. Mr. Whaley’s previous experience was at Gainesville’s Acrosstown Theatre and Miami’s Actors Playhouse. Ms. Suddard is a sophomore at Flagler College, and has been in several of their plays. They are excellent in their roles and have good chemistry together.

The farce starts to build when the enterprising Mrs. Hunter mails the Scandinavian Import Company requesting glassware; she plans to begin a home-based business selling house wares. A box sent by the company arrives and is brought to the apartment by Peter’s best friend, who is also a bank employee; Brian Runnicles is played by Micah Laird with awesome vocal and physical versatility. When they open the box, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, they find it filed with pornographic photos!

Now for the bit of history – back in the 60’s and 70’s, it was, and in many places still is, a crime to own material of this kind. The laws have changed in many countries, making it possible for interested parties to purchase such items openly by mail, from the internet, and in brick and mortar stores.

But in England in 1971, the box and its unwanted contents posed a big problem for Peter and Brian. If caught with the photos, both could be jailed and lose their jobs, so they have to find a way to quickly and quietly dispose of them But how? They try hilarious approaches, like flushing the items down the toilet and using the garbage disposal, both unsuccessful. They don’t dare put them in the garbage cans since it could be traced back to the bank and to them!

More complications come up. The import company sends two more large boxes, the first with books filled with explicit photos and the second with VHS tapes with suggestive titles.

british03Eleanor (Linda Mignon) Peter’s attractive widowed mother, arrives for an extended visit, much to the dismay of her daughter-in-law. When Mr. Bromhead (James Desmond), who is Peter’s boss, comes to visit, Eleanor shows an immediate interest in him so he stays around. Jan Peter Buksar, as Mr. Needham, is a bank inspector who stops by; he will be examining the books in the morning and asks to use the apartment’s spare bedroom while in town.

Ah, the problem: how to keep all those visitors from seeing the hot merchandise? Mr. Bromhead spends a lot of time wining and dining Eleanor, while Mr. Buksar spends a lot of time in blue pajamas and looks very much like the late actor Peter Sellers (and is just as funny).

Then a bombshell really drops! The import company is concerned that the Hunters are unhappy with their purchases and send two prostitutes to the apartment as a gift to smooth things over. Susan and Barbara (Kelly Kates and Nicole Payne) are two friendly and gorgeous gals who are dressed in appropriate clothing for their chosen occupation.

british02Two other characters round out the cast. Police Superintendent Paul (Martin Fillman) throws a scare into everyone on a couple of visits while investigating bank security and following up on neighborhood issues. Aaron O’Connell makes a cameo appearance as the delivery man.

This farce builds nicely to a surprise ending, which we will not reveal. It has all the fun things found in shows like this, including slamming doors, pratfalls, wild gestures, and mistaken identities. While you won’t find language, the play contains lots of sexual innuendoes, as you might expect based on the title.

The Director is John Pope. He and his actress wife Sue are well known in the North Florida Theatre Community. They live in Palm Coast and are very active with theatres from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach. Many Jacksonville residents will remember the Popes, as they lived here and were active at one time or another with almost every theatre venue in the area. Pope’s direction is right on the mark with tight staging and excellent timing in this fast-moving comedy.

The set designed by Mr. Pope is well conceived and comfortable. A vintage radio on a table is emblematic of the time period. Lorraine Rokovitz created the period costume designs; we especially liked the hooker’s outfits.

The Production Crew includes Daphne Moore (Stage Manager), Maria Helfrich (Assistant Stage Manager), and Shelli Long (Properties Supervisor).

The opening weekend audiences laughed loud and long and you will too, especially if you enjoy this type of humor, performed by an inspired and well-rehearsed cast of actors. The Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "Limelight Theatre"is located at 11 Old Mission Avenue, in St. Augustine, with plenty of free parking available.

Next up at Limelight is the classic “Hello Dolly” on June 5th, directed by Jacksonville’s Blake Osner.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.