It appears to be a sunny afternoon in a beautiful and substantial country home (“16th-century posset mill, lovingly converted”), and Mrs. Clackett, a housekeeper of character, is juggling a plate of sardines and a phone call in which she explains that the owners of the house live in Spain, and that she is off work, but intends to put her feet up with a plate of sardines and watch some television.
After the call is over, however, some confusion over whether she should leave the sardines and take the phone, or leave the phone and take the sardines, causes actress Dotty Otley to break character, revealing the whole set-up to be a play rehearsal. The house is a carefully crafted set, featuring an upstairs and a number of doors, the time is actually 11pm at night during a frustrating final dress rehearsal, and the place is the Grand Theatre in Weston-super-Mare, rural England. Lloyd Dallas, director of the farce Nothing On, for which they are rehearsing, argues with Dotty about whether they have changed the blocking or not. Garry Lejeune, playing housing agent Roger Tramplemain, and Brooke Ashton, playing his girlfriend Vicki, try to enter at their cue, but are turned back while Lloyd and Dotty work out the sardine bit. Garry and Dotty make encouraging eyes at each other while Brooke remains confused, and the play progresses with Roger showing Vicki the house, pretending it belongs to him. Vicki leaves to prepare for their stolen moment of passion, and Mrs. Clackett re-enters, having lost her sardines. Roger, having thought it was the housekeeper’s afternoon off, is alarmed, and pretends that Vicki is his client, and that he is showing her the house. Mrs. Clackett exits to the study… but Dotty has forgotten the sardines again, and Lloyd interrupts to remind her. This sets off a massive complaint from Garry, defending Dotty’s forgetfulness, about the numerous plates of sardines that the cast has to deal with, and the number of tricky props in general. Lloyd