It’s an affair to remember… for all the wrong reasons

Darren Keay, Jacob James, Andrew Scanlon and David Talbot in a scene from Out of Order. [Submitted]

A comedy of errors, most of them self-inflicted, ensues when a married politician’s assignation goes all wrong – or all right, in the audience’s case – in the Drayton Entertainment production of Out of Order, now on at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.

British government minister Richard Willey uses an all-night parliamentary debate as cover to have a secret rendezvous at the Westminster Hotel with Jane Worthington, a typist for the opposition. Their hope of a steamy night together goes awry when they discover a body in their suite. Willey is forced to call his hapless secretary, George Pigden, to clean up his caddish mess and avoid a salacious scandal. Things don’t go as planned.

It’s a classic from playwright Ray Cooney, says actor Darren Keay, who brings Willey to life.

“Ray Conney is the master of British farce,” he said, adding Out of Order, an Olivier Award winner, certainly fits that mould.

Keay knows a thing or two about farces, having appeared in more than a few with Drayton Entertainment, which makes a speciality of the genre. His Drayton résumé includes the likes of  Lend Me A Tenor, Too Many Cooks, Perfect Wedding, See How They Run and Moon Over Buffalo.

“It’s a theatre form that I’ve really come to enjoy and respect,” he said of the “orchestrated chaos” that takes a great deal of effort to look haphazard.

Keay’s Willey is “a politician on the rise and living large. He’s a man caught at a certain point in his life where he wants some excitement.”

He gets that in spades, to the amusement of the audience, though not Willey himself.

What follows is a great deal of fast-paced action in which the characters face one problem after another. In Out of Order, the audience is treated to manic entrances, slamming doors, pratfalls and witty rejoinders as Suite 648 becomes home to uninvited guests, including Jane’s agitated husband, an unscrupulous waiter, a confused maid, the frustrated hotel manager, the proper Mrs. Willey and bossy Nurse Foster.

“It’s really nonstop. There’s some great stuff going on here,” said Keay.

With Willey at the centre of all the commotion, Keay is kept hopping throughout the performance.

“I talk a lot,” he laughed. “I’m having a blast with it.”

Having already played at Drayton’s theatres in Penetanguishene and Grand Bend, where Out of Order wrapped up last weekend, the production is a well-oiled machine at this point, Keay notes.

He’s joined by Jacob James, who takes on the role of George Pigden, Willey’s trustworthy aide who sinks further and further into trouble as he haphazardly tries to tidy up his boss’s dirty deeds. James previously appeared in The Foursome and Look No Hans! for Drayton Entertainment.

Lauren Bowler makes her Drayton debut as typist Jane Worthington, who gets entangled in a surreptitious affair with Willey. Bowler has appeared in Rock of Ages and Godspell with the Vancouver Arts Club, as well as in many other productions on the west coast.

Out of Order was first produced in 1990 in London’s West End and won the Lawrence Olivier Award for “Comedy of Year” in 1991. It went on to be a worldwide hit for Conney, who’s other famous farces include Run For Your Wife, Funny Money, It Runs In The Family and One for the Pot.

“This is one of Ray Cooney’s best — the laughs are huge in this,” Keay said.

The Drayton Entertainment production of Out of Order runs through September 1 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are $46 for adults; $27 for youth under 20 years of age, available at the threatre, online at or by calling the box office at (519) 747-7788 toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

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