by Alan Ayckbourn.
Rose Theatre In rep to 28 November 2009.
transferred, with cast chanmges, to:
Duke of York’s Theatre St Martin’s Lane.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu 3pm Sat 4pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7823.
www.ticketmaster.co.uk (£3 transaction fee by ‘phone and online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 October at Rose Theatre Kingston.
Serious laughter from middle-class bedrooms.
Though it isn’t one, Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy has as many ins-and-outs as any hectic bedroom farce. As part of the Rose Theatre’s ‘Behind Closed Doors’ season it forms part of theatre’s traditional function of opening-up the personal and private to public view.
None of the three bedrooms lined-up here long remains private. It’s not just crumbs that invade a couple of the beds, while the third is filled with objects hidden by the practical joking Malcolm and Kate.
The middle room, in the home where Malcolm and Kate are holding another of the author’s disastrous off-stage parties, becomes a repository for coats. And the others are invaded by the ill-matched Trevor and Susannah. Unbalanced by their self-obsession, unaware of the impact on ’phoning or visiting people unannounced in the late, or early, hours, these are two of Ayckbourn’s disruptives, like the title character from his Norman Conquests trilogy earlier in the seventies.
Like Norman, their mixed innocence and self-obsession makes them elusive for actors. Neither performer here has quite the necessary absence of self-awareness in their playing. But they’re enjoyable enough, and there’s a good deal more to appreciate in Peter Hall’s production.
Ayckbourn is one of the few male playwrights where most key moments belong to the women onstage; both Lucy Briers’ purposeful Jan – the sensible one Trevor swapped for Susannah – in her anger at present partner Nick’s self-absorption with his back problem, and Finty Williams’ Kate, stopped in the tracks of her laugh-a-minute marriage by duff handyman-husband Malcolm’s casual mention of her ordinariness, show why Bedroom Farce is a title that does more than nod to a genre.
Ayckbourn takes a comic look at the contrast between normal social behaviour and chaotic human impulses. And, half a lifetime ago, he was already able to create the deadening impact of routine in his older, very middle-class couple. Jane Asher’s Delia is a model of elegant maturity in aspic while Nicholas Le Prevost, in a finely-wrought performance as Ernest, combines a sense of dither with inflections suggesting a military past – when life had a pattern and purpose it now lacks.
Delia: Jane Asher (Kingston)/Jenny Seagrove (Duke of York’s).
Malcolm: Daniel Betts.
Jan: Lucy Briers (Kingston)/Sara Crowe (Duke of York’s).
Nick: Tony Gardner.
Ernest: Nicholas Le Prevost (Kingston)/David Horovitch (Duke of York’s).
Susannah: Rachel Pickup.
Trevor: Orlando Seale.
Kate Finty Williams.
Director: Peter Hall.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Costume: Mark Bouman, Mia Flodquist.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Associate director: Cordelia Monsey.