by Alan Ayckbourn.
Grange Arts Centre Rochdale Road OL9 6EA To 10 March 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 10 March 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 624 2829.
Review: Stoon 25 February.
A Small Step but no Giant Leap
The welcome refurbishment of The Coliseum allows their company to revive Ayckbourn’s high farce romp in the round at the same venue it toured to in 1980, a year after debuting – on the basis of this I wouldn’t be priority booking the next visit.
The play creaks a bit and needs whip-hand direction to paper over shallowness which accepts characters remain locked in attic bedroom cupboards overnight, a wife who shares her marital bed with a stranger mistakingly believing him to be her hubby and a bore who sends listeners to sleep within seconds – literally as witnessed by tilting heads (just add audio Zzzzz).
Set over 3 floors of a house, the staging solves the impossible to achieve (in the round) multi– level requirements by pretending sections of the flat stage are indeed stairs – the cast ascend/descend these in a variety of movements ranging from triple jump to hop scotch – consistency at least would help though I’ve seen far more convincing efforts to simulate stair-climbing.
That said, we reach the interval in reasonable shape; over-characterisation which renders the principals predictable mouthpieces aside, dynamics between them are established with anticipated joy in the manner of their disruption. There’s also a class cameo from Martin Miller as Leslie the vendor who shows that there’s more to this than shrilly diva rantings or drunken belligerence, though Roland’s an interesting hybrid of Perrin’s CJ and Swiss Tony.
Unfortunately the second act is a series of set-piece shenanigans worthy of Sid James & Co, though even they might demand refinements before committing – audience appreciation was heightened nonetheless.
Worth seeing for Ayckbourn’s ability to weave a web, but limited pleasures beyond this other than slapstick encounters – farce can be electrifying if freed of the ‘guffaw’ factor – the Coliseum’s yesteryear Noises Off being the benchmark.
Roland: John McAndrew.
Mark: Ben Porter.
Leslie: Martin Miller.
Elizabeth: Jackie Morrison.
Tristam: Anthony Eden.
Kitty: Maeve Larkin.
Director: Robin Hereford.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Lorna Munden.