★★★

With its social pretensions and terrible clothes, it is surprising golf has not given us more comedies. But Ken Ludwig (of ‘Lend Me A Tenor’ fame) has come up with A Fox On The Fairway, a reasonably amusing farce set at a Home Counties golf club; they give it a fair first shot at Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre.

It is the annual grudge match against a neighbouring club. Henry makes a foolish bet with his rival Dickie Bell, a sexual predator with a wolfish laugh.

Henry thinks he has an ace new player, only to discover that the man has defected to dirty Dickie’s team. All seems lost until Henry learns that his dim-witted assistant Justin is an unacclaimed golfing genius. If he can only persuade Justin’s daffy fiancee Louise not to upset his equilibrium . . .

Things get off to a painfully slow start and for 20 minutes I feared Ludwig and director Philip Wilson were digging us into a bunker.

But thanks to the efforts of Damien Matthews (Henry), Simon Lloyd (Dickie), Sarah Quist (Henry’s wife) and Natalie Walter (Dickie’s vampish ex, Pamela), things take root. The second half is markedly better and a routine involving a public-address system, as Henry proclaims his love for Pamela, is sweetly struck. By the end of the evening, the theatregoers were chuckling and happy.

Pamela, after a nightmare, tells us that: ‘Golf and sex are the only two things you can enjoy without being good at them.’

The climax of the plot is that most satisfying of sounds: the hollow gurgle of a golf ball dropping into the hole.

It could do with some re-writing at the start but this is a cheerful, unastringent evening.

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