Tom, Dick & Harry by Ray Cooney
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
As the lights went down for the interval, I turned to my companion and simply mouthed, "Wow." This play is simply awful. Of course, it didn't help that one of the actors was hopeless and the direction was a little pedestrian; a decent script could survive that. But farce only works with an element of plausibility, and this one depends on people making ludicrous, idiotic decisions that nobody with an IQ in double figures would make.
Tom and Linda are awaiting a visit from Mrs Potter to assess whether they are suitable to adopt a baby. Tom's brother Dick has borrowed Tom's van ostensibly to help a friend move house but has instead gone to Calais to load up with cigarettes, brandy and, unwittingly, two Albanian refugees. That's plausible enough and a good basis for a farce.
But Harry? He plans to help Tom and Linda buy their rented flat. He steals some body parts from the hospital so he can bury them in the garden, turning the flat into a murder scene and knocking £100,000 off the asking price. Easy enough: hospitals always leave dismembered cadavers in corridors for anyone to walk off with and would never notice if they sent a body for cremation minus its head and limbs. And why would an absentee landlord suddenly decide to sell at a loss when he has reliable, paying tenants? And why would Tom let Harry bring body parts into the flat on such an important day?
When Mrs Potter arrives to a house is full of dead bodies, and occasional policeman and live, drunk refugees (but not Tom's wife Linda, who has been tricked into going out), she offers to postpone their interview. To which any vaguely sane person would reply, "How about next Wednesday?" Instead, Tom insists the interview goes ahead and concocts the most idiotic story imaginable to explain the situation.
With farce, one has to sympathise with the main protagonist, but it's impossible to sympathise with Tom. He could have solved his problems at almost every turn: with a simple "Yes" to Mrs Potter and a simple "F*** off out of my flat" to Harry, Dick and the refugees. Every situation offers an easy escape that Tom refuses to take.
Like Alan Ayckbourn, Cooney is a staple of AmDram and his comedies have that cosy, 1970s feel (with social attitudes to match). Tom, Dick & Harry was written in 2005 and is a bit more modern, but there's still a whiff of the 70s about it. That's what will keep it running in Village Halls for decades, or at least till the Morecambe & Wise generation have shuffled off.
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