„Anyone for Breakfast?“ The New Play at the English Theatre of Hamburg

By Uta Buhr

Are you the new cleaning-woman for upstairs?

What a pity that Britain’s great playwright Derek Benfield is no longer with us. Most unfortunately he died in 2009 at the age of 83 years. Otherwise, we could look forward to a lot of new hilarious plays such as “Anyone for Breakfast?” that just premiered on the Mundsburg stage.

This comedy, set in Shirley und Gilbert’s country house near London has all the classic ingredients of the genre: there are numerous doors through which the actors pass to and fro, usually just missing each other or hiding from each other, thus complicating the plot. Jane, a married woman and a close friend of Shirley’s, tries to seduce young attractive Mark who is shocked by the idea to have an affair with the wife of another man.

Helga, please don’t!

What a puritanical bloke! Gilbert, Shirley’s husband, holds the opposite opinion on marital fidelity and brings pretty Helga, a German air-hostess, to his house, claiming later that he had to offer shelter to this poor woman who would have got lost in the London fog. He even keeps on telling that she is the new cleaning woman for the upper parts of the house. While watching this comedy, Sir Walter Scott’s wise words come to mind: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” What about charming Roger, Jane’s better part, and Shirley, Gilbert’s sporty wife who pretends to attend her aerobics class? They are not as innocent as it seems at first sight, you bet. While Shirley hopes to find Gilbert in their love-nest, Roger looks for her in her home, pretending that he got stuck in the mist and that he bought flowers from an old man out of sheer pity since “nobody buys flowers when it’s foggy outside, you know.” Got it – the bunch of flowers was meant to cheer up Shirley.

I am happy with my wife Jane, you see

When creating this play of mishaps, deception and tricks, Benfield follows the formula so exactly that the whole thing is totally predictable from the very first moment. Nonetheless, the
play is very intelligently crafted and extremely amusing, the more so as Helga’s English with a heavy German accent culminates in funny linguistic blunders such as her car’s “sparkling plugs” instead of sparking plugs. The audience roared with laughter and thanked these six outstanding actors for a wonderful evening on a grey November day. By the way, four of the protagonists – Jan Hirst as shy Jane, Stephen Chance in the part of wily Gilbert, Debbie Radcliffe playing “cool” Jane, and James Walmesley, charming as ever in his gentlemanly manner – are already part of the TET team. We indeed admire their ability to play such a lot of entirely different roles. Two newcomers won the hearts of the “habitués” of the English Theatre: pretty and witty Gabrielle Douglas and Robert Hamilton in his part of innocent Mark. Do come again!

What a wonderful party we are having

What about the author of the play? Derek Benfield was born in 1926 in Bradfort/Yorkshire, led an active life as playwright and actor in “personal union” and died in 2009 at the age of 83. His big production of comedies includes – among other plays – box-office successes such as “Touch and Go”, “Bedside Manners” and “Look Who’s Talking”.
Final performance of “Anyone for Breakfast” on February 7, 2015
Tickets under phone number 040 – 227 70 89, online booking under www.english-theatre.de
Next premiere: Georg Bernhard Shaw’s Comedy Classic “Candida” on February 15, 2015