`Sweet FA' - a Brilliant British Farce ; All the Elements of Farce Are Present in This Tale of the Secretary, Two Middle-Aged Suitors, and the Football Association
Street-Porter, Janet, The Independent (London, England)
I grew up on Whitehall farces, evenings spent in stuffy theatres surrounded by middle-aged people (my parents included) wiping their eyes, helplessly convulsed in gales of mirth as a bug-eyed Brian Rix dashed in and out of a series of hotel bedroom doors clad in his underpants, shirt and tie, babbling incoherently.
At its glorious best, there's nothing to beat a full-blooded British farce, in the hands of a master like Alan Ayckbourn or Joe Orton. Early last year, I sat through a grim reminder of how the genre has been devalued, a ghastly entertainment about a taxi driver and internet dating written by Ray Cooney. Even the huge talent of Eric Sykes couldn't breath life into that particular turkey. Then the brilliant television comedy writer Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly etc) produced a stunning new translation of Dario Fo's classic farce Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Donmar, and I remembered that nothing can beat a gorgeously rumbustious full- blooded farce.
Nevertheless, such evenings in the theatre are rare these days, and I was beginning to think that writers like Simon, John Cleese and David Nobbs had transferred the best elements of farcical comedy to television in such series as Fawlty Towers, One Foot in the Grave and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, until events at the swanky London HQ of the Football Association started to unravel in all their glorious ineptitude this week.
If any theatrical producers are looking for a surefire comedy hit to revive the lacklustre fare on offer in the West End, then please can they commission a new farce - preferably set to music - and call it "Sweet FA". All the homegrown elements of a classic farce, one we British can be thoroughly proud of, are present in this tale of the secretary, the two middle-aged suitors, and the jury of 12 angry board members steered by the capable but dreary chairman Geoff Thompson.
Sven Goran, the mystical Swede, with his curiously helmet-like blow- dried hair, turns out to be a man of hidden shadows. Described famously by David Mellor (surely there's a walk-on role in this farce for the toe- sucking politico turned commentator) as "the man who has taken English football to the upper reaches of mediocrity", Sven has proved himself to be a man permanently on heat when not on the pitch.
In 2002, he not only had an affair with the nation's favourite suffering blonde, Ulrika, and then rudely dumped her when it became public knowledge, but he confidently steered the English team as far as the quarter-finals of the World Cup. He returned home to his larger-than-life Italian bombshell, Nancy, and continued to persevere with blow-drying his hair and waiting until another set of challenges came on the scene.
In 2004, having flirted with Chelsea's rich new owner, he managed to re-sign his contract as England coach for an astonishing pounds 4m (that's more than pounds 10,000 a day), send a lot of red roses to females at the FA headquarters, and bonk gorgeous, pouting champagne-loving Faria Alam, 38, (nicknamed Ferrari on account of her costly tastes in leisure activities) secretary to the FA's executive director. Oh, and Sven also masterminded the English team's feeble performance in the European Championship.
But I know that this is a man of hidden talents, because I once listened all the way through the double CD, entitled Sven's Classical Collection, released in time to cash in on the World Cup. It's a weird mixture of hoary old Proms favourites, and pleasant, if inconsequential, offerings by 20th-century unfamiliar Scandinavian composers.
The irony of this week's headline-grabbing escapades will not be lost …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: `Sweet FA' - a Brilliant British Farce ; All the Elements of Farce Are Present in This Tale of the Secretary, Two Middle-Aged Suitors, and the Football Association. Contributors: Street-Porter, Janet - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: July 29, 2004. Page number: 39. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.