Paul Thomas | UK Theatre Network reviews Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing at the Theatre Royal Windsor (uktheatrenetwork.com)
ALARMINGLY funny and chaotically comedic, Tom Stoppard's raucous Rough Crossing is currently jamming them in at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, writes Paul Thomas.
Set sail on some serious comedy as Britain's most prolific impresario, Bill Kenwright, brings this wonderful new adaptation of Stoppard's 1985 classic to his own stage in the shadow of Windsor Castle.
And it's a right royal romp down at the 'Royal' as some of the best stage actors make this a night to remember for an appreciative house as hapless playwrights and wannabes create mayhem and misunderstanding on a luxury transatlantic liner.
It's the 1930s, when Hungarian playwrights Sandor Turai and Alex Gal board the SS Italian Castle, from Cherbourg to New York, where their musical comedy, The Cruise of the Dodo will be debuted. French composer, Adam Adam, a former actor with a strange speech impediment caused by his awful mother, is with them.
However, all goes terribly overboard as one of the star actors, Iver Fish, is accidentally overheard declaring unparalleled love for fellow thespian, Natasha Navratilova which bounces her latest love Adam into apoplexy.
What starts out quite innocently diminishes into fabled farce as Turai, Natasha, and Ivor, along with a cabin steward and the devilishly 'I can do anything' Dvornichek, try to convince the suicidal Adam that what he heard was actually a rehearsal for a new ending to the play.
From there on in, it's all hands on deck as one misunderstanding leads to another, including ­- no spoilers here - believing the ship is going down, an hilarious attempt at going overboard and the final involvement of the piano-playing Dvornichek in the musical comedy.
This is Stoppard at his best - but it needs a truly brilliant cast to set it afloat and it's bravo Bill Kenwright for bringing this cracking crew before the mast.
John Partridge (EastEnders) is sublimely and adoringly subtle in his chortlingly cheesy portrayal of Turai.
Rob Ostlere (Holby City, Doctors) as Adam brings an encourageable eagerness to the lovelorn Adam and is a great foil to Simon Dutton's (Endeavour, Midsummer Murders) irritatingly irrational and inescapably irascible Ivor.
Issy Van Randwyck (Spooks, The Danish Girl) is delightfully demure in her appreciation of this comedy. Like her companions, she doesn't overplay this. The audience is treated to a wonderfully gentle volcanic eruption of continuous control as the laughter lava flows from start to finish.
However, the stand-outs of what can only be described as a voyage of hilarious voyeurism are Matthew Cottle as Gal and the rising star in our theatrical firmament, Charlie Stemp as Dvornichek .
Cottle (Murder on the Blackpool Express, Citizen Khan) is at his absolute best with comedic timing so in touch with his fellow cast it leaves you coming up for air.
The whole crew is delightful in this first class ferryboat of fun.
Stemp (Half a Sixpence, New York's Hello Dolly beside Bette Midler, for which he received the 2018 Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut) underlines his growing credentials - at a tender 25 - as a great entertainer. He told me dancing and singing are his 'first love' and it shows, but branching out for more acting and his brilliance at comedy timing were a delight to watch.
Stemp has stamped his mark on yet another theatrical genre.
The decadent art deco look of the liner sets off the scenic beauty of this production.
Rachel Kavanaugh's direction is tight, slick, subtle and dynamic with a delicate, delicious touch of irony.
And with music by Andre Previn and lyrics by Stoppard himself in this freely adapted version of Molnar's Play at the Castle, what more would keep you on dry land.
Go on, wade out into a sea of laughter.
Don't be a plank, ditch the tellybox and walk onboard the 'Royal' as you cast-off for comedy genius.
Rough Crossing, Theatre Royal Windsor, until Saturday, February 9. Box office: 01753 853888 or theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk.

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