By HAYLEY HOFFMAN – MANAGING EDITOR
The cast and crew of DramaCentre’s upcoming production of Boeing Boeing is hard at work preparing for opening night.
Known as one of the most widely performed comedies in recent times, Boeing Boeing follows the seemingly ideal life of womanizer Bernard, who is engaged to three beautiful airline stewardesses without each knowing of the others. When speedy Boeing jets throw off Bernard’s careful planning, all three women arrive in his Paris apartment on the same day and imminent catastrophe looms.
Professor of Dramatic Arts Dr. Tony Haigh said that this play “falls into” the tradition of farce, an ancient form of drama.
“This play was written in French originally and translated into English, so it’s a modern French farce that’s falling in that tradition. It’s got all of the elements you need—a chaotic situation involving lovers, and doors,” Dr. Haigh said. “It has more to do with romantic relationships and situations that get out of control—lost letters, misunderstandings, one person coming into a room when they shouldn’t be. It’s all the timing of people coming and going, which is what makes all the fun.”
The cast memorized their lines early on in the rehearsal process, which gave them free reign to experiment with onstage movement. As the hilarity of this play is found in the timing, Dr. Haigh spent many rehearsals helping the “brilliant” cast understand the rhythms and patterns of comedy.
“It’s difficult to do. It has been interesting working with these young actors because when the timing works, they suddenly go, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’” Dr. Haigh said. “It’s that revelation that just by pausing here or taking a breath there, you can create laughter.”
This play is unlike anything audiences have seen from DramaCentre in recent years as the department has a reputation for performing what Dr. Haigh calls “serious and hardcore stuff.”
“[This play] is entirely frivolous,” Dr. Haigh said. “For me, it was a real pleasure to explore the other side of the dramatic world. It’s wonderful for me, as a director, to experience that shift in pace. It’s good for the actors, too, to shift out of one role and into another.”
Perhaps the biggest contrast comes in the size of Boeing Boeing’s cast—a group of just six actors as compared to Macbeth’s thirty.
“I’ve actually done several large-cast shows, so for me, a chance to do a show with a small cast is a chance to get into depth with the actors in a way I’m not always able to with a larger cast. This small cast is very experienced,” Dr. Haigh said. “It’s a team effort. I’ve got people in the room who are giving me advice and being a set of eyes so when I try things, I can tell if they’re laughing or not. I can ask if something works, and they help feed things as we try different ideas. That’s what makes it fun.”
Dr. Haigh hopes that this sidesplitting show will give audiences the chance to laugh at life and “how chaotic it gets.”
“We’ve got a great cast and they’re having so much fun doing it, and comedy is hard to do. Edmund Kean, one of the great actors of the 18th century said on his deathbed, ‘Dying is easy, comedy is hard,’ and it really is,” Dr. Haigh said. “That’s what makes comedy fun, I think, and it should be fun. It should be fun for the actors and fun for the audience.”