It’s the opening music that confirms we’re in for an evening of clichés; “Spanish Flea”, “Spanish Stroll”. So, yes, we’re in Marbella and the ‘Swap’ is an extremely short-notice house exchange between the owners of a highly respectable family funeral business from Wimbledon and an ex-pat villain who’s used to supplying Costa del Sol undertakers with quite a lot of business. Indeed, the cast of seven produces nine dead bodies; so the sums are interesting whichever way you look at it.
Ian Ogilvy has written and directed this throwback, 70s, five-door farce which has been wowing audiences in Poland (in Polish) for the past three years and has arrived in England just before the Brexiteers can stop it. As a homage to the genre, it trundles along perfectly well; raising much merriment along the way.
It’s less than a minute to the first toilet joke but, on the other hand, Ogilvy produces some nice gangster gags and his choice of ‘Wimbledon’ allows him to dwell on neat double-entendres revolving around courts and racquets/rackets.
It’s the funeral director’s wife Susan who gets the more memorable jokes. Freya Copeland is the only actor not really hamming it up and, as the body count blossoms, she’s rewarded with lines like “I can’t stand violence. I don’t even like Tom and Jerry” – whilst complaining – “We’ve had two murders already and I haven’t even unpacked.”
David Callister is irritatingly amusing as her stock, pedantic, establishment husband who slips into professional condolence mode at every corpse; and Patric Kearns is entertainingly flamboyant as the cowardly-custard character who comes good in the end.
It’s formulaic farce which the audience happily bought in to – as if they too had been transported back to Brian Rix’s Whitehall Theatre of fifty years ago. The only thing the old farce-meister might beef about is the lack of de-bagging.
And, just as in the old days, it provides the perfect opportunity to leave the grey matter at home.
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