full cast

Robert Powell (left) as Philip, Liza Goddard as his wife Sheila, Josephine Timmins as Ginny and Anthony Eden as Greg

Relatively Speaking

Belgrade Theatre

*****

IT’S not often I get the chance to echo Noel Coward – but I agree wholeheartedly – “A beautifully constructed and very, very funny comedy. I enjoyed every moment of it”.

Mr Coward was talking about the first performance when Ayckbourn was largely unknown and only 28 – it had Richard Briers, Michael Hordern and Celia Johnson plus Jennifer Hilary at the Duke of York’s in March 1967.

Mrs Howard, in 2016, was in Coventry enjoying the same play with Robert Powell and Liza Goddard just as much.

While I’m name-dropping, Alan Bennett said that “happiness is a toffee in your pocket”. The anticipation of misunderstanding on a gargantuan scale has you on the edge of mirth throughout. It is carried off to great effect by the quality of the cast; a four-hander with Lindsey Campbell and Antony Eden as Ginny and Greg.

Ginny and Greg have only just met and Ginny, a sixties’ free woman, with a ‘past’ that she is cagey about sharing with her new lover, also the flat is full of flowers and chocolates that continue to arrive. But Greg is quite naïve and already smitten enough to propose.

The first scene, in a crumpled modern flat, is brilliant in building the picture and the gradual unfolding of the story is pure genius. Greg puts his feet out of Ginny’s single bed first thing on a Sunday morning to find an alien pair of slippers under his feet. His questioning is subtle and clever. Ginny is planning a trip to see her ‘parents’ at The Willows in Bucks. (I could have lived in that house – though back in 1967 I think in two hours I detected a single aircraft overhead…)

He decides to follow – but arrives first. At The Willows he meets Philip and Sheila (Robert Powell and Liza Goddard) having a leisurely breakfast on the patio. Sheila is a neglected but good wife teasing her husband that there might be a fancy man. Greg’s solo arrival fuels the fire. The rest is breathtaking but follows naturally from that one assumption. When Ginny arrives and we see the real relationship between her and Philip, as does Sheila in the end, her resolution is both clever and resourceful. There’s still the question of the slippers…

This is first rate, hysterically funny and well worth a look. I’d love to go again! Directed by Robin Herford, it runs to 05-11-16

Jane Howard

31-10-16 

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