Once the lifeblood of popular theatre, the politically-incorrect sex comedy has seemed not so much endangered as extinct in recent years.
But now a fashionable director, Matthew Warchus, has revived a classic of the genre, perhaps signalling that we are living in less po-faced times. However, his production turns out to be surprisingly heavy-handed and on this evidence Boeing-Boeing is a difficult play to like.
Marc Camoletti’s French farce, a huge international hit in the early 1960s, is about a playboy architect, Bernard, who runs simultaneous affairs with three air stewardesses, simply relying on airline timetables to keep two of them away from his Paris flat at any one time.
His naive country cousin, Robert, turns up unexpectedly, just in time to witness the collapse of Bernard’s scheme as speeded-up schedules and freak weather set the girls on collision course.
The fact that the three represent different national airlines – American, Italian and German – gives free reign for national stereotyping, which is actually quite disconcerting in the case of the ogreish Lufthansa stewardess, Gretchen.
Despite his ingenuity Bernard is actually quite a dull boy and it is the apparently dim Robert who has the best of the comedy as keeping the three women apart becomes a matter of split-second timing.
But the decision to play him with a broad Welsh accent makes him wearing to listen to and more lines get lost in a general tendency to shout.
By far the best thing in the show is Susie Blake’s long-suffering maid, Bertha, who introduces a welcome touch of restraint while demonstrating once again that the best comedy often comes from reacting.
* Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes. Until Saturday.