cast of relatively speaking

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

Relatively Speaking

Malvern Theatres

*****

THE proverbial banana skin on which one slips and falls in this play are provided by the pair of slippers!

Greg finds a pair of gentleman’s slippers under his girlfriend’s bed which are evidence of a former liaison . . . or is it another ongoing one?

She slithers and tries to explain away their presence only for them to appear later to multiply her embarrassment, and indeed the embarrassment of the older couple she pretends to Greg are her parents! It all becomes terribly complicated and awkward!

Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking is a brilliantly witty and contrived piece of comic writing, bordering on farce. His ability to set up and intensify misunderstandings is outstanding. The effect is magnified by the short, sharp and speedy dialogue which rattles on in brief sentences in which meanings are not explicit and clear, so wrong assumptions and interpretations abound!

Greg has moved into Ginny’s flat in London and, in his relative naivety, hopes to build his future with her by marrying her. Her life and character however are far too complicated. The abundance of flowers around her flat, the enigmatic phone calls and the tell-tale slippers all hint at a life that is entangled with one or more other individuals from whom she will have to extricate herself if she is to give him a positive answer to his proposal.

One step she must take is to disentangle herself from the middle-aged Philip, but this is made so much more difficult by Greg’s decision to follow her to what he believes is her parents’ home in the countryside. The consequent play-acting and confusions provide a rich vein of hilarity and comic irony.

TALENTED QUARTET

Theatre Royal Bath Productions have assembled a talented quartet who deliver the snappy dialogue with excellent pace and sharpness. Their comic timing is superb and when dramatic pauses are used, they have telling and usually highly amusing effect.

Anthony Eden plays the somewhat naïve and gullible Greg; he seems to sense that Ginny has a more complex past, and possibly present, but he is truly in love with her and proposes marriage after they have been together for a month. His eagerness and inclination to trust become highly comic in the light of what we discover about the other characters in the piece.

Josephine Timmins uses her voice cleverly to convey to the audience a sense that she is not all that she pretends to be to Greg at the start of the play, and her use of eyes and facial expressions in the scenes at Philip and Sheila’s country home are very effective.

Robert Powell is brilliant as the paunchy middle-aged cynic and philanderer Philip, and Liza Goddard plays the role of his wife Sheila with a stillness and control that provides a perfect foil to his performance.

The set design is highly effective: the ordinary bedsit in London is contrasted with the rich countryside patio in front of a beautifully manicured middle class home and the two are swapped with the impressive use of a revolve.

The production is hugely entertaining and very amusing as it portrays the increasingly permissive society of the sixties in an amoral and light-hearted manner. This is Ayckbourn at his best in a play he wrote while in his twenties and near the outset of his long and hugely fruitful career. To 29-10-16

Timothy Crow

24-10-16 

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