Imagine placing orders for glassware, only to receive a package of adult material, followed by the arrival of some questionable items – even persons. That is how the nightmare begins for the very proper characters in No Sex, Please – We’re British, and the start of some raucous fun for the audience.
Set in 1972, the play by Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot, which ran for 16 straight years in London’s West End, might be tame by today’s standards. However, the stretched innuendos only add to the humour. Citing his favourite line, British Theatre Playhouse founder John Faulkner gives us an example of such wit. He says: “I play Leslie Bromhead, the regional bank manager and a pompous twit who falls terribly in love with the mother of the hero of the play. He tells the hero in a scene, ‘I do hope you won’t mind, but she asked me to take a look at her stocks and shares’. That is just classic innuendo.”
Faulkner has immersed himself in all aspects of theatrical work since graduating from Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London in 1968. He set up British Theatre Playhouse in 2004 with his Singaporean wife, Cecilia.
Observing the response to comedic productions over British Theatre Playhouse’s 11-year history, the British national believes that the play will appeal to audiences here and around Asia. “Well, you can almost just change the name to ‘No Sex, Please – We’re Singaporeans’!” he jokes. “And you will laugh at this: In Thailand, they felt the name of the show was too strong!”
He added: “This is our 14th or 15th production, and comedy – such as Out of Order and A Bedfull of Foreigners – has always done very well for us. As a commercial production that operates without grants, we need to put bums on seats! Also, we travel the region (the play also goes to Malaysia and Thailand) where taste and sometimes language vary, so we gravitate to plays with a wide universal appeal.”
Such is Faulkner’s conviction in the play’s appeal that he is keeping it true to the original script. “When we started in 2004, I reckon our audiences in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were 70 per cent expats and 30 per cent locals. That is almost reversed now. People are very well-travelled and a lot of our younger audience are educated in the West, and they like seeing plays performed in [the way of the original production].”
The playhouse – which has brought sell-out productions such as Mousetrap in 2013 and Yes, Prime Minister last year – continues to work at bringing the best to our shores, and Faulkner reveals that they are “hoping to have a very well-known artist come to Singapore to star in a famous play by Noel Coward”. Stay tuned.
No Sex, Please – We’re British plays at the Jubilee Hall Theatre at Raffles Hotel from May 6 to 16.