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Confusions

Malvern Theatres

****

WRITTEN and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, Confusions is a quintet of one act plays, each of which is vaguely linked to the next. 

It helps to mark the 60th anniversary year of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (SJT) and Ayckbourn’s 55th directorial year and was originally premiered in 1974  to ‘show off ‘ the versatility of the actors and keep the SJT ‘busy’ .

So Ayckbourn and SJT have revived this classic comedy, set in the 1970s, and are touring it alongside the author’s 79th, and latest play, Hero's Welcome.

Although the play as a whole feels a little dated, the audience chuckled throughout, quietening only for the final piece.  The cast of five actors portray 20 very different characters, a true reflection of their ability to transform and showcase their skills as Ayckbourn intended.

There is a simple black set which is enhanced by a clever use of furniture changes for each vignette. These changes are smoothly carried out by actors and stage crew in costume. They are actually a delight to watch as one piece of furniture transforms into another.

The first vignette, Mother Figure, brings us to the chaotic home of housewife Lucy (Elizabeth Boag) and her (unseen) brood. The scenario is one that is patently recognisable by any stay at home mum who is overwhelmed with the pressures of motherhood. 

Lucy, who spends her days clad in her nightwear, her only interaction being with her children, suddenly has to converse with concerned neighbours Rosemary (Emma Manton) and Terry (Stephen Billington) Can Lucy engage in adult conversation?  We see the hilarious results as she fails to do so.

We are then taken to a hotel bar for Drinking Companions. Here we meet Lucy’s stay away husband Harry (Richard Stacey), a salesman with the gift of the gab, endeavouring to chat up Paula (Emma Manton), a perfume salesgirl.

Her friend Bernice (Elizabeth Boag) arrives and Harry sees the chance to snare two beautiful young women. The women are under pressure from Harry as he plies them with alcohol in his quest to lure them into his bedroom. "It's a lovely room, number 249".

Comedy ensues as Harry grows more inebriated and Stacey achieves a textbook performance of a drunk. But, the star of this piece was the bar waiter (Stephen Billington) serving the drinks with aplomb and adding the surprise twist at the end of the scene which produced much laughter and generous applause from the packed auditorium.

Between Mouthfuls was the third offering on the menu, set in a high class restaurant, with bickering diners Polly (Manton) Martin (Stacey) Mrs Pearce (Boag) and Mr Pearce (Russell Dixon) and again, the dear waiter (Billington), who played the pivotal role in this study of extra marital dalliances, snobbery, hypocrisy, social mores . . . it was all served up here. Cleverly directed, the dialogue flowed seamlessly as the plot unfolded.

Next, Mrs Pearce takes us to Gosforth’s Fete where she is to be the guest speaker.  Chaos breaks out due to a faulty tea urn and a dodgy PA system resulting in rampaging Boy Scouts, a drunken scoutmaster, a dithering vicar, and some shocking revelations.  This is probably the best piece of the play, full of energy and humour.

Finally there is a Talk in the Park which takes place in the same park as the fete. Here the production changes pace and style.

Five strangers, sitting on four park benches engage in talking to each other whilst conversely ignoring each other.  The humour subsides and it becomes more thought provoking as we are forced to consider the life problems these strangers have encountered.

A gentle play with a lot of laughs and a not so happy ending. Until 5th March

Rosemary Manjunath / Elizabeth Smith

03-03-16 

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