by Alan Ayckbourn.

Stephen Joseph Theatre Westborough YO11 1JW In rep to 5 October.
7.30pm 14, 15, 24 Aug, 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 20, 21, 25-28, 30 Sept-2 Oct, 5 Oct.
1.30pm 15 Aug, 12 Sept, 3 Oct.
2.30pm 24 Aug, 7, 21 Sept, 5 Oct.
Audio-described 5 Oct 2.30pm.
Captioned 26 Sept.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.

then New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 26 October 2013.
7.30pm 10, 11, 15, 16, 19, 21, 24, 25 Oct.
2.15pm 26 Oct.
Audio-described 26 Oct 2.15pm.
Captioned 24 Oct.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.

Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 August.

New departure for established playwright with the arrival of this new play.
I’d become quite tolerant of Alan Ayckbourn. After all, he’s done so much for English comedy, with experiments in form, and truth in observation, exploring dreamscapes and desires while monitoring the changing furniture of the times.

If his recent work hasn’t matched past glories, that’s only to be expected after so many plays, and at his age. Besides, even a half-way good Ayckbourn play is something most theatregoers would celebrate in almost any other comic writer.

Yes, well, the arrival of this new piece has seen that patronising complacency off. It’s innovative structure is integral to the way it imparts information and explores how chance outwits the most elaborate preparations, and how close happiness and tragedy lie.

It’s also a reminder that, had he not been caught for a comic spirit early on, Ayckbourn might have become a noted mystery writer. Surprises, which frequent his plays, are the stuff of both comedy and tension.

The action here is framed by an elaborate security set-up, to entrap a dangerous criminal. Ayckbourn calls on one of his more recent tough-men, Terence Booth, to supervise the sting. His anger as Quentin fumes helplessly at the incompetence around increases when a disgraced woman operative arrives to guard the sole civilian who can identify the criminal.

In different ways Elizabeth Boag’s Ez and Kim Wall’s Barry are rejects flung out by the onward march around them. The occupation of both has gone. A good part of each act has them sitting, waiting, talking. Not since the heyday of Samuel Beckett have two people onstage spent so long waiting for something to happen.

It does, eventually. Twice, in different forms. And the period of waiting, set as if mirror-images, fills in first Ez, then Barry’s, life. The second of the eruptions of violence, one comic, one sad, could seem sentimental, but it would take a cruel, hard heart not to allow the humanity of the whole drama, its strong cast headed by Boag’s firm Ez and the fine Barry of experienced Ayckbourn player Wall, who finds the dignity and firmness in a quiet, uncomplaining Englishman.

Ez: Elizabeth Boag.
Quentin: Terence Booth.
Charles/Jess/Husband: John Branwell.
Esme/Girlfriend/Daisy: Rachel Caffrey.
Mother/Hilary/Pauline: Sarh Parks.
Tourist/Debs/Daisy: Emily Pithon.
Sherwin/Norman/Son/Cerastes: Ben Porter.
Student/Freddie/Suspect/Young Barry: James Powell.
Chaplin/Clive/Wisby/Rob: Richard Stacey.
Nadine/Lily/Wife: Sarah Stanley.
Barry: Kim Wall.

Director: Alan Ayckbourn.
Designer: Jan Bee Brown.
Lighting: Tigger Johnson.
Fight director: Kate Waters.

2013-08-13 23:56:46

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