A Bedful of Foreigners at The Mill at SonningBy Phil Creighton
December 16, 2010
Bing Crosby sang about being home for Christmas, asking for snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree, but actor Patrick Monckton is spending Christmas elsewhere – and it’s where he wants to be.
The comic actor is appearing at The Mill at Sonning throughout the festive period, taking part in its Christmas production A Bedfull of Foreigners and chalking up his ninth appearance there in the process.
The show, a farce, follows Stanley and Brenda, a couple who decide to check in to a French hotel to rekindle their marriage.
But unbeknown to them, their hotel manager has accidentally double booked the room with Claude, a French playboy who was expecting his glamorous mistress Simone to turn up – however, his wife Helga has decided to come out to surprise him.
Matters get even more complicated when Simone performs a striptease to Stanley, thinking he’s Claude.
And we haven’t even mentioned poor confused hotel porter Karak yet. Or the local fancy dress contest…
The show is now a week into its run and Patrick has been enjoying both the rehearsal period and the first performances.
“The Mill is a jolly place to work,” he says. “From the rehearsal rooms you see the river and the swans; every time I drive [here] I see one or two kites flying there – it’s wonderful.”
Nature trails aside, Patrick is also enjoying working with the experienced cast, which includes Belinda Carroll, Eric Carte and Michelle Morris.
“We’re really enjoying ourselves rehearsing, we all know each other, it’s great. And the director David Warwick as well, I’ve worked with him before.”
And although comedy is a serious business, Patrick says that with a large cast it’s been a blast: “It’s non-stop laughing and telling stories and things.”
Joking aside, the team have been rehearsing hard to ensure every gag, bed-hop and confusion is meticulously planned.
“It’s a serious business comedy – you have work out the timings as well,” Patrick explains. “You have to make it work. Once you get into it you can have a laugh.”
Although he’s taking it seriously, it doesn’t always go the way you’d expect, as Patrick found out when working on a drama with Dame Judi Dench.
“She’s a terrible giggler,” he confides.
Patrick played her husband in a West End play and, in their first scene, they were pretending to be in a restaurant. One whisper from Patrick later and poor Judi corpsed.
“She sprayed tuna fish all over my face and she totally went!” He laughs at the happy memories. “She came back, sat down and she couldn’t stop laughing.”
Although this is Christmas, A Bedfull of Foreigners isn’t a pantomime although it is set in a hotel in the run-up to the big day.
“It’s traditional [for The Mill to] do a comedy [at Christmas],” Patrick says. “The audience is very different at Christmas – they’ve all come for a good laugh and there’s turkey and Christmas pudding on the menu. But I don’t think they’ve ever done panto at Sonning.”
Audiences are loving the show though,
with Patrick reporting shrieks of laughter coming from the stalls.
“We meet people afterwards who have said they’ve enjoyed it,” he says happily.
And Patrick adds that if you need cheering up this Christmas, a visit to Sonning could be just the ticket.
“You come along and know what you’re going to get: you sit there and know you’re going to laugh now. Nowadays, we all need a good laugh don’t we?”
And with that, the giggling comic actor is back off to another hilarious evening.
There are extra performances of the show on Monday, December 20 and 27, and a matinee and evening performance on Sunday.
A Wednesday matinee is performed on December 22 and 29. On New Year’s Eve, there will be a gala performance complete with live music to take you through to the New Year.