It's comedy time at Vienna's English Theatre. The British farce A Bedfull of Foreigners should draw English-speaking audiences till April 4.
Chris Johnston, who has also directed traffic in Ray Clooney's Run for Your Wife, directs a string of British actors specialized in farce, like Chris Johnston, Jan Acx, Daniel Kruyer, Sally Chattaway, Kym Dyson, James Petherick and Karen Chatwin.
A Bedfull of Foreigners, somehow reminiscent of John Cleese's hit TV-comedy Fawlty Towers, deals with the chaos a British couple encounters in a run-down hotel in France.
The English Theatre has been a much-beloved fixture on Vienna's theatre scene for more than three decades. The story of the first of two English-speaking theatres in Vienna (the International Theatre is the other one) began in 1959, when Franz Schafranek, an assistant director at the Burgtheater, and Ruth Brinkman, an American actress, met at the famous Cafe Havelka.
Not only were they married the following year, they also worked together on realizing their dream of a theatre for English-speaking visitors. In 1963, their first production was Jerome Kilty's two-character comedy Dear Liar in a lecture hall of the downtown Archduke Karl Palace, the first of many temporary stages.
Audiences grew larger and larger as Austrians discovered "the greatest little theatre wonder of Vienna" (just one of the numerous accolades in local and international papers). On Feb. 7 1974, the doors of the 230-seat turn-of-the century theatre at Josefsgasse 12 opened again after a costly renovation, thus becoming a permanent home for the VET.
Noel Coward, Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and Alan Ayckbourn are just some of the British authors, Neil Simon, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker and Alfred Uhry are some examples of the American writers whose works have been produced at the VET. Famous actors, who have graced the ET's stage, were David Belcher, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Baxter, Rupert Davies, Peter Wyngarde, Dame Anna Neagle, Joan Fontaine, Constance Cummings, Jean Sincere, Maria Perschy, Marisa Mell, Linda Gray, Larry Hagman and Rue McClanahan.
Unfortunately, both Franz Schafranek and Ruth Brinkman passed away in the nineties. However, their daughter, Julia Schafranek, has taken over as Artistic-Executive Director, thus reassuring audiences (including 5000 subscribers) that the English Theatre is here to stay.
A Bedfull of Foreigners runs till April 4. Performances: Mon. - Sat. 7.30 PM. Tickets can be ordered at (+43)-1-402 12 60.
--By Bernd Freimueller