by Alan Ayckbourn.

New Wolsey Theatre Civic Drive IP1 2AS To 12 May 2012.
Mon; Wed-Sat 7.45pm Tue 7pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 5 May 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 10 May.
Post-show Discussion 3 May.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 01473 295900.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 April.

Let the Farce be with you.
Where are they now? Dick and Lottie, unseen guests in more than one 1970s Alan Ayckbourn comedy. Still alive? In a retirement home? There seems, for some reason, something absolutely normal about Dick and Lottie Potter. Doubtless they regularly holidayed in the playwright’s theatrical home, Scarborough.

Their invisibility is essential to that normality. As soon as a character steps into an Ayckbourn setting, normality drops away. The three young couples of 1975’s Bedroom Farce are splintered from the start, Nick confined to bed as his wife Jan goes solo to Kate and Malcolm’s party, where she meets old flame Trevor, rowing with Susannah whom he married.

Trevor’s parents, Ernest and Delia, try for a quiet night after a restaurant meal has flopped. Delia’s sure Trevor should have married Jan. Trevor and Susannah – a married form of the well-intentioned but self-obsessed character who wreaks havoc among middle-class households in Ayckbourn-land – might be a development of the mismatched young lovers in his first success Relatively Speaking.

They find their way, one or another, separately or together, into or onto everybody else’s beds, oblivious of others’ needs or the destruction they’re causing as, helped by Richard G Jones’ lighting, Peter Rowe’s production moves between three bedrooms while their occupants’ night becomes increasingly disordered.

Foxton’s design puts the older couple above and behind the others, and their staider pace of life is reflected in a chintzy cosiness that contrasts Nick and Jan’s lean-lined modernism and the garish cheer chosen by happy-go-lucky Kate and Malcolm.

Performances generally avoid the fussy, Chloe Howman’s Jan having the most focused directness. There’s thankfully very little of the acting mannerisms that sometimes substitute for character in productions of (though never by) Ayckbourn. And Rowe scores with the party givers. Richard Elis’s DIY incompetent and his wife are childishly playful and, though either would make the bathroom-scales work for a living, they’re happier than sleeker, neater-looking folk.

Even here, there’s the suggestion the surface pranks and parties could become a way of staving-off boredom. But their trauma-ratings are lower than their coevals – the intriguing perception of this classy production.

Ernest: Christopher Ettridge.
Delia: Susan Bovell.
Jan: Chloe Howman.
Nick: Barnaby Power.
Kate: Leanne Jones.
Malcolm: Richard Elis.
Trevor: Tom Turner.
Susannah: Sophie Roberts.

Director: Peter Rowe.
Designer: Foxton.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Sound: Simon Deacon.
Fight director: Jonathan Jaynes.
Assistant director: Rebecca Abbott.

2012-04-27 15:26:36

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