Growing up, I was a big fan of British comedies on PBS; I watched them all the time. Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, The Vicar of Dibley, Red Dwarf, the list goes on. New shows came out on a regular basis. The sad part was they would make a joke about some British royalty and I wouldn’t get it. The good part was that the majority of the situations and jokes transcended cultures. No S*x Please, We’re British, performed by the ICT Mainstage (ICT), did just that – transcended British culture. I could relate to No S*x Please, We’re British. In fact, anyone that has ever tried to hide something unpleasant only to have it blow up in their face, could relate to No S*x Please, We’re British.
The play starts with newlyweds Peter and Frances Hunter returning from their honeymoon to start their life together. Peter works as an assistant bank manager, and the happy couple is allowed the benefit of an apartment over the bank. The laughs begin when Frances innocently orders a home business kit from the Scandinavian Import Company. In an attempt to make money for the family and save for a home of their own, Frances orders what she believes to be Scandinavian glassware; what arrives is a box full of po*nography.
Peter could lose his job if the bank was to find out, so the small town, conservative couple is hard pressed to “dispose” of the pornography in the most quiet and unobtrusive way possible. As in most comedies, they don’t make it. To make matters worse, Peter’s mother Eleanor arrives to stay for a few days; the regional bank director Mr. Bromhead comes for a visit; and they have an impending inspection from Mr. Needham, the bank’s inspector general within the next few days. As the comedy ensues, the happy couple must deal with other deliveries of even more illicit po*nography, while also trying to retrieve a bank check mistakenly sent to the company.
The original No S*x Please premiered in 1971, and ICT did a superb job of bringing the feel of the `70s to life with the set design. From the paint on the walls to the colors of the throw pillows on the couch the set resembled a 1970’s apartment in England. The set even had a kitchen counter with a pull down wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. The wall took on a life of its own as it decapitated flowers for laughs.
The costumes were vintage and well played out. One of the more memorable pieces would be the mink stole worn by Eleanor Hunter on her evening out with Mr. Bromhead. In the 70’s, mink coats were more highly prized than in today’s market, and the piece added to the overall nature of the character.
The cast did a wonderful job. Charles Maxham and Angela Horn had wonderful chemistry as Peter and Frances Hunter. They were believable as a couple, and their onstage relationship was warm and passionate. Fritz Ketchum and Chuck E. Moore also had good chemistry as Eleanor Hunter and Leslie Bromhead. We could feel the tension and the interest as the characters interacted.
Maxham gave a fine performance as Peter Hunter. Maxham’s gradual decline and dishevelment was apparent in both his physical and emotional mannerisms. As the days wore on, and the problems continued to mount despite his best efforts, Hunter became closer to frazzled and farther from a proper English gentleman.
Nick Haley was phenomenal as Brian Runnicles. If there was one person that carried the play’s comedic tone it would be Haley in the role of Runnicles -with a name like Runnicles you would have to expect quirkiness. From start to finish Haley gave an outstanding performance. His serious, deadpan reactions to some of the problems he faced were priceless. Not only was his acting well done, but his reaction time to events and situations was above par. Runnicles ran the gamut from faithful employee and family friend to being the most wanted man in Royal Windsor, and Haley took every step in stride with finesse.
Megan Ruth Nieves did an incredible job as Susan, one of the Scandinavian Import Companies prostitutes. The acting was well done but what impressed me most was the Cockney accent with which Nieves worked the character. The voice, inflection and accent seemed perfectly suited for a London prostitute.
I was a bit disappointed with the performance of Fritz Ketchum as Eleanor Hunter. Ketchum seemed unsure what to do with her hands, and acted as though she was channeling Eunice “Lovey” Howell from Gilligan’s Island. I was impressed with the way she interacted with Moore but when she was interacting with other characters it seemed a bit strained. Most of the time in a farcical comedy outlandish behavior is the norm but here it felt forced and awkward.
The end could have used a little pep. The beginning of the play started slow but as things fell into place, or out of place as the case may be, the action built towards a crescendo. However when the end came, what should have been panicked slamming of doors and near misses ended up being a slow walk on stage of tired characters.
All in all No S*x Please, We’re British was an inspired homage to British comedy. ICT put on a wonderful play and transported the audience back to 1970’s England. The laughs were there. The characters were there. You should be there too.
NO S*X PLEASE, WE’RE BRITISH
by Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot
Director – Scott Nixon
Producers – Evelyn G. Hall, David Smith
Scenic Design – Ellen Mizener
Lighting Design – Lisa Miller
Properties – Fernando Lara
Costume Design – Ashlie Kirkpatrick
Sound Design – Richard Frohlich
Stage Manager – Lois Bair
Peter Hunter – Charles Maxham
Frances Hunter – Angela Horn
Brian Runnicles – Nick Haley
Eleanor Hunter – Fritz Ketchum
Leslie Bromhead – Chuck E. Moore
Superintendent Paul – John Reynolds
B.R.S. Delivery Man – Ray Adams
Delivery Man #2 – Nathan Bredfeldt
Mr. Needham – M. Shane Hurst
Susan – Megan Ruth Nieves
Barbara – Vandi Clark
Reviewed performance on Saturday, November 5, 2011
ICT Mainstage Productions
Dupree Theater, Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Irving, TX 75062
NO S*X PLEASE, WE’RE BRITISH plays through November 19th
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:30 pm.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: $21 Adults, $19 Seniors/Students
Thursday: $18 Adults, $16 Seniors/Students
For tickets and information please call 972-252-2787
or go to www.irvingtheatre.