by Alan Ayckbourn.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre Port-Na-Craig Pitlochry PH16 5DR In rep to 11 October 2012.
8pm 27 Aug, 6, 14, 19, 22, 25 Sept, 4, 11 Oct.
2pm 1, 26 Sept.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01796 484626.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 August.
Spot-on, three times over.
Time moves on; or does it? Perspectives certainly change. John Durnin’s Pitlochry production comes when the central time-zone in Alan Ayckbourn’s philosophical comedy-thriller (each of those words is meant as a compliment) is the present day. Originally, 2012 was the future, and the earliest scenes, chronologically, set in 1992 were effectively the present for the Scarborough premiere two years later. Perspectives will change again for the 2032 revival, when the author’s futurology will be truly tested.
Through a Hitchcock-like macguffin, characters can shift back 20 years between hotel rooms. From this Ayckbourn ingeniously creates a thriller plot, provides laughs along the way, and, most significantly, creates a human warmth suggesting the playwright who repeatedly excoriated marriage finds values in families. Murderous violence contrasts instinctive goodwill, while bitterness unfolds into generosity.
It’s also a play suggesting Ayckbourn’s connection with theatre’s arch time-student, J B Priestley. For in Reece there’s a second chance, as with Ormund in Priestley’s I Have Been Here Before. Dougal Lee’s performance emphasises this physically, the decrepit mass of wealth and destructively-used power contrasted with the brightly healthy man of social conscience.
Human potential’s seen too in young Poopay, as Jo Freer changes by stages from the false costume of her sex-work to the open features and naturalness of someone seeking genuine friendship, matched by the changes to face make-up and revelation of her real name. It’s not insulting Freer’s performance to say that a play which in its author’s two Scarborough productions focused on her character here revolves around Ruella, the forceful second wife who, at first sceptically, becomes involved in Poopay’s adventures.
That might partly be Durnin’s directorial approach; it’s certainly down to Jacqueline Dutoit’s performance, with its attention to detail, showing Ruella’s initiative, and development of a positive side once she has a purpose in life, up to her final decision which is Oscar Wilde’s true fiction – ensuring the good end happily.
George Doherty provides the dark force, Frances Collier’s set is apt and spacious. This fine production salutes a playwright who can, in the same moment, provide wild laughter and cliff-edge (or balcony-ledge) tension.
Poopay: Jo Freer.
Julian: George Docherty.
Reece: Dougal Lee.
Ruella: Jacqueline Dutoit.
Harold: Dan Smith.
Jessica: Kate Quinnell.
Director: John Durnin.
Designer/Costume: Frances Collier.
Lighting: Pete Appleby.
Fight director: Raymond Short.