I READ an interesting article recently. Apparently, nostalgia used to be classed as a disease, an actual clinical diagnosis implying something between depression and homesickness. It even appeared on death certificates as late as the First World War.

Doesn’t sound like a terminal disease, does it? And even if it were, as Capt. Ed Hocken said in the Naked Gun films, “That’s no way for a man to die”.

But things have come full circle, and nostalgia’s now a lifesaver, driving the post-pandemic recovery of many theatres, with the current glut of Alan Ayckbourn revivals representing their “banker options”; the theatrical equivalents of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special, as it were.

A Chorus of Disapproval (Salisbury Playhouse, until 18th May) taps into that nostalgia vein and put lots of farce-hungry bums on seats.

The play tells the story of the recently widowed Guy Jones, who joins his local amateur operatic society and takes a small part in their production of The Beggars’ Opera. But he hadn’t bargained for the opera’s socially inept director, whose overbearing behaviour slowly forces members of the cast to drop out, leaving Guy to step into the role of leading man. Quiet and diffident, Guy is initially welcomed by all and sundry, but his weak-willed nature soon sees him embroiled in affairs with two of the ladies in the cast, and nefarious business dealings with several of the men.

The pivotal role in this play-within-a-play, though, is that of the opera’s director, Dafydd Ap Llewellyn, a proud Welshman of the sort that loves his country so much that he’s moved away to live elsewhere, and who is brought magnificently, humanely and sweatily to life by a truly memorable performance from Robert Bowman (Can You Hear Me?; The Hollow Crown).

Unlike so many farces, though, the play also poses some ethical questions, as Guy’s philandering and careless duplicity steadily turns the rest of the cast against him. It may not be a morality play as such – farce is just farce, when all’s said and done – but it certainly goes a little deeper than your average Brian Rix bedroom romp and offers food for thought.

So, if you fancy some 1980’s nostalgic humour, this production is worth seeing. I can’t promise that you’ll die laughing, but suppose you did: now that really would be the way for a man to die.