British Farce is Certainly Not Out of Order

Hi everyone! The Librarian with the Purple Spectacles is back again, sans spectacles (but not for long!).

This month has really been a month of laughs. Ray Cooney’s farce Out of Order, which won the Laurence Olivier Award in 1990 for Best Comedy, came to Singapore from 11 to 15 April, with an all-British cast featuring stalwarts of the British theatre scene such as Robin Kermode (The Iron Lady, East Enders, Emmerdale Farm) and Nick Wilton (Funny Money, East Enders). On 13 April, the library hosted a special artist sharing session where members of the public could get up, close and personal with the director, producers and key members of the cast of Out of Order.

I caught the last show on Sunday afternoon at the Raffles Hotel, and it was a wonderfully hilarious performance. All the actors were spot on in their comic timing, and Cooney’s lines overflowed with deliciously snarky puns and exuberantly sexual innuendoes. If I may use one of the most commonly uttered and funniest words in the play, it was certainly a very “naughty” performance. My friend and I simply couldn’t stop laughing through the two and a half-hour show.

But what made the whole experience of Out of Order a truly fantastic one for me was not so much the on-stage performance, but the off-stage behaviour of the director, David Warwick, the producers, John and Cecilia Faulkner, and the actors Robin Kermode and Sasha Waddell, when they came to speak at the library.

As a librarian in the library@esplanade, I liaise on a regular basis with directors, choreographers, musicians, actors, dancers, talent managers and all manner of people involved in the very complex work of creating and performing works of art in and outside Singapore. And in the one year that I have spent in this library, I have met my fair share of diva-esque artists and uncooperative arts administrators who have made me question why I was trying so hard to help them promote their art while they were obviously trying their best to make life difficult for me.

But David, John, Cecilia, Robin and Sasha really showed me what it meant to be professional about one’s work; to be passionate about one’s art; and most importantly, to be a good human being. Cecilia, John and Robin were thoroughly committed to working with the library in the months leading up to the talk on 13 April. They were always quick to provide whatever information I needed to publicise the talk, and to offer help spontaneously and generously.

On the day of the talk itself, they turned up on time, and graciously partook of the teatime refreshments the library had bought for them with our meagre budget. (This may seem trivial to you, but believe me, punctuality is not one of the virtues of many artists and arts groups in Singapore, and there have been artists who have rudely left the food we offered them completely untouched.) They were also very warm and engaging and included me in their conversation, without putting on any airs at all.

I had actually wanted to hold the talk on a weekend so that we could draw in bigger crowds but this wasn’t possible because the actors had to perform during the primetime slots we had set aside for them. So, when I saw how small the audience was on the 13th, I became anxious and fretted over what more I could do to encourage our patrons to attend the talk. John, one of the producers, saw how upset I was, and he spoke these words which I will never forget: “We understand that it’s a weekday, and it’s in the middle of the day. It’s the thought that counts.” And then he patted me on the back.

I was very surprised as John seemed at first sight to be a rather grumpy and taciturn man. His kind words really lifted my spirits, and made me want to do my best for them because they were doing their best for me. Cecilia was right when she told me during our first meeting that John, David and the actors were all “big-hearted people”, and it has certainly been my privilege as an arts programmer to meet people like them who take their art, and the people who want to help them promote it, seriously. They showed me their humanity was certainly not Out of Order.

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