Richmond Theatre, London, to 08 10 16, then touring (see below)
Runs 1hr 35 with int
Funny, well played, but getting on in years
Relatively Speaking was staged in Scarborough in 1965, and in 1967 provided Ayckbourn’s first West End hit. This revival demonstrates his early skills in a fine fashion. It also, however, suggests that unless, as it is here, played at an uninterrupted allegro molto, it might give an audience time to suppose that four people of obvious intelligence and ability would be unlikely to behave as they are shown doing.
That is farce for you, obviously, but the farce here is purely verbal and if you were so disposed you might wonder how people of the intelligence shown on stage would allow the betrayals and manipulations the plot requires, apparently without noticing them at all.
Hence my three stars rather than four or five.
Two of the four characters are practising and concealing potentially very destructive deceptions.
That’s, I think, enough about the action. Such as it is it is well done and it provides a framework within which virtually every statement that is made is misunderstood. So this is a farce in which the pratfalls are verbal and the secrets that two of the four keep well concealed are exposed in the end largely because the play has reached a point where a temporary tying up of ends is the only way of bringing proceedings to a halt.
The four performances are excellent.
Philip (Robert Powell) whips and roars his way through a series of manipulations which on the surface seem to be exactly those which are likely during a rather boring Sunday in the country. In fact, however, he is a great deal less amusing that he presents himself as being––although Ayckbourn seems, I think, interested in his unpleasantness only as a plot mechanism.
Sheila (Liza Godard), rises above her husband’s self-centredness and is shown finally as capable of making the best of a bad job and rising to the occasion with some cunning manoeuvring.
Lindsay Campbell’s Ginny is, in her way as is Philip, but nicer, and Antony Eden’s Greg proves adept at catching up with the strange situation in which he finds himself.
The sets, a rather grotty London flat and a very desirable country house work very well as apt backgrounds for the action.
Robert Powell: Philip
Liza Goddard: Sheila
Lindsay Campbell: Ginny
Antony Eden: Greg
Director Robin Herford
Designer Peter McKintosh
Lighting Jason Taylor
Sound: Mike Walker
Tour: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford,»The Lowry, Salford», Malvern Theatres, Malvern,»Belgrade Theatre, Coventry» Arts Theatre, Cambridge» Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes» Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester»and its place of origin, Theatre Royal, Bath»