by Alan Ayckbourn.
Stephen Joseph Theatre Westborough YO11 1JW In rep to 8 October 2010.
7.30pm 25-27, 31 Aug-1, 6-8, 23-25, 28 Sept, 6-8 Oct.
2.30pm 26 Aug, 25 Sept, 7 Oct.
3pm 26 Sept.
Audio-described 24 Sept.
BSL Signed 26 Aug.
Captioned 25 Sept 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 August.
Doors on the past give new hope for the future in comedy-thriller.
Time’s skipped our perspective on Alan Ayckbourn’s 1994 play. At its premiere two of the story’s three time-zones were in the future, while the earliest, 1990, placed the audience midway between then and 1997, when happy young newlywed Jessica was due to be drowned by loving young husband Reece’s sinister henchman Julian.
Now, we’re level with mid-zone 2010, and young dominatrix Poopay who’s only come to this hotel-room in 2030 to earn a living, already has time on her side when she sees videos as historical curiosities. Time-travel has its own laws here – it’s only possible to go backwards, which means each earlier generation has to be convinced by their successors’ hindsight of the vital news that they’re about to be murdered.
There are comic moments – hotel security-man Harold being brusque with unknown Ruella in 1990 but fawningly polite in 2010, when she’s married to successful businessman Reece. But there’s a lot of crime and sci-fi, too, in the play, as its stark 40s film-poster publicity images suggest. And an underlying theme, similar to the J B Priestley of I Have Been Here Before, suggesting it is possible to alter the past with a wider awareness and to prevent lives falling apart.
Ayckbourn skilfully meshes the elements – the funniest scene is a cliffhanger set on a high hotel balcony. If Laura Doddington’s Poopay seems merely tired with her trade at the start, the performance comes to life as emotions seep into the situation; Doddington is excellent as she listens, expresses concern, is caught between involvement and self-preservation.
It’s right the re-resolution of events involves her, giving her the security of a family (the play was a turning-point, if not a contradiction, after Ayckbourn’s years of assault upon middle-class marriage). Kim Wall’s silky villain is sinister in his quiet determination, while Liza Goddard magnificently displays Ruella’s scorn for her dim predecessor (a quality Laura Howard catches subtly), her opening suspicion of Poopay and later resourcefulness.
Jamie Kenna provides simpler comedy as Harold, and Ben Porter does his best as the character who has to appear in two ages, 40 years apart. This sticking-point apart, Ayckbourn’s direction is as fluent as always.
Poopay: Laura Doddington.
Ruella: Liza Goddard.
Jessica: Laura Howard.
Harold: Jamie Kenna.
Reece: Ben Porter.
Julian: Kim Wall.
Director: Alan Ayckbourn.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Music: John Pattison.
Fight director: Kate Waters.