THEATRE: Head over heels in lust with a married woman

‘‘Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong … The behaviour of the characters results from the fact that no one wants to be alone’’
Nanjing Night Net

THE title character in An Absolute Turkey is a man who falls head over heels in love with a beautiful woman he sees on a street and follows her home, setting off an increasingly chaotic and very funny chain of events.

The man, Edmond Pontagnac, finds that he knows the woman’s husband, Crepin Vatelin, through their membership of a club.

But that doesn’t stop him from lusting after the ravishing Lucienne, even when she tells him that she would only betray her husband if she found out that he had cheated on her first.

So that starts Pontagnac, who is himself married, trying to prove the man is a two-timer.

An Absolute Turkey is a classic French farce by one of the masters of the genre, Georges Feydeau, in a 1994 translation by British theatre director Peter Hall and his wife, Nikki Frei, that has been a hit worldwide since its London staging.

Newcastle Theatre Company director John McFadden saw the Hall production in London and put the play on his must-stage list. McFadden, whose previous productions include Major Barbara and Pygmalion, has finally achieved his dream, with An Absolute Turkey beginning a three-week season at NTC’s Lambton theatre on November 17.

The play has a large cast, with several couples making their way through a hotel bedroom in its fast-paced middle act.

Rebecca Cuttance is the much-desired Lucienne, with Kel White as her adoring but not completely blameless husband. Carl Gregory is the eager but inept wooer Pontagnac, whose wife Clotilde (Marnie Long) makes an appearance at awkward moments.

A man-about-town bachelor, Ernest Redillon (Lewis Dixon), has long had his sights set on Lucienne, and promises to help her if she is in trouble.

The characters also include two couples visiting Paris, Mitzi and Narcisse Soldinac (Emma Wood and Brian Randell) and the Pinchards (Howard Rawlinson and Tracey Owens), whose paths have previously crossed those of some of the others, and a lady of the night (Tracey Gordon) who leaves her client waiting in a hotel room when she goes off with a handsome visitor.

The actors also include Greg Gascoine, Sam Watson, Craig Lindeman, Amy Wilde, John Wood, Cassie Hart and David Murray as hotel staff, police, servants and other characters.

John Wood, who is also John McFadden’s assistant director, said that with a story full of people who were cheating on others and misinterpreting the actions of others, ‘‘everything that can go wrong, does go wrong’’.

But he noted there was a very human side to the events.

‘‘The behaviour of the characters results from the fact that no one wants to be alone,’’ he said.

The characters are also often misguided.

Carl Gregory said that his Pontagnac had it in his head that he was the perfect lover: ‘‘But that’s the only place where he has that status.’’

Rebecca Cuttance sees her Lucienne as so needing her husband, Vatelin, that when she finds out he intends to cheat on her she schemes to get him back.

Lewis Dixon, as the other man lusting after Lucienne, said his Redillon wanted her because he saw her as unattainable.

Kel White, as the husband who is initially unaware that other men want his wife, said that ‘‘love prevails – maybe’’.

An Absolute Turkey opens with performances on November 17 at 8pm and November 18 at 2pm, then plays Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm, until December 1, plus a 2pm matinee on November 24.The theatre is at 90 De Vitre Street, Lambton. Tickets: $25, concession $20. Bookings: 49524958 (Monday to Friday, 3pm to 6pm).

ATTRACTION: Key cast, from left, are Rebecca Cuttance, Carl Gregory, Kel White, Lewis Dixon and Amy Wilde. Picture: Simone De Peak