Writer: Alan Ayckbourn
Director: Lindsay Posner
Reviewer: Samuel Hopkins
The Public Reviews Rating:
Alan Ayckbourn’s first West-End comedy hit has made a major comeback touring across the UK this year and can currently be found at the beautiful Richmond Theatre. The play first premiered at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 29th March 1967, a peak time of social change and liberation, and was arguably the show that launched Ayckbourn’s renowned career. The comedy, set in 1965, bases itself around two couples who, through a hilarious web of deceit and misunderstanding, end up in a situation painfully awkward for themselves, but wonderfully entertaining to the audience.
What Ayckbourn’s writing does so beautifully is present a piece of witty, well put together light comedy, but also colour it with social comment and substance. The layering of the writing gives an illusion of frivolity but, at it’s time, some of the subject matters and scenes challenged modern audiences without being aggressively blatant. The quintessentially British couple, portrayed superbly by Felicity Kendal as Sheila and Jonathan Coy as Philip, create an antithesis with the younger more liberal couple, Max Bennett as Greg and Kara Tointon as Ginny, and yet the same core dark desires and secrets lie at their roots. Ayckbourn comments that, regardless of class, age, or reputation, human nature will seep through these facades. And yet not for one second do the audience feel obliged to think solemnly of the decay of mankind, rather sit back and enjoy watching these character’s lies and misunderstandings unravel. When you think that their predicament couldn’t get any worse, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The actors charge the writing with their electric characters and recognisable mannerisms. The connections on stage between the actors are unbreakably strong and the audience find themselves captivated by the misfortune they seem to come across. The audience peer into Kendal and Coy’s portrayal of a lazy Sunday and the chemistry between the two takes the perfect snapshot of the character’s country lifestyle; Kendal’s portrayal of Sheila was simply superb. Bennett as Greg brought life to the comedic writing, often leaving the audience in tears of laughter.
Relatively Speaking is a guaranteed fun night that will leave you thoroughly entertained. Although the progression of modern society may have numbed some of its originally hot topics, it is still never the less a hilarious and extremely witty piece of theatre bound to be enjoyed.
Runs at until Saturday 6th October 2012
Relatively Speaking – Richmond Theatre, London,