by Alan Ayckbourn.

Tour to 21 June 2014.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 May at Richmond Theatre.

Passion’s slaves and victims in revival with some fine performances.
In manuals on such matters, three situations permit physical restraint in institutions: that someone’s about to harm another person, themself, or to significantly damage property.

The characters in Alan Ayckbourn’s 1997 play aren’t in an institution – not even the institution of marriage. The love for which they do things that bring them into the danger areas above is physical desire, including the most sudden outburst of passion between hostile characters since Look Back in Anger. And it all takes place behind the solid Victorian respectability of a Fulham house (projected on a front curtain between scenes).

House-owner Barbara’s been unaware how postman Gilbert’s been stoking his passion for her down in the basement he rents, but trouble appears when old school-friend Nikki and her fiancé Hamish rent the upper-storey while their own new home’s being redecorated.

Barbara, sublimating desire into loyalty to her boss, workaholism and pristine cleanliness, reverts to the happiest days of her life, long hair trailing suddenly free as Claire Price’s confident strides give her clothes the look of a school uniform. Her carefully-constructed adult life turns out less stable than her bookshelves and she adopts a prefect-like authority on discovering Gilbert’s behaviour.

Simon Gregor’s clownish Gilbert, arms swinging, vowels stretching, voice singing through the nose, strangely contrasts Price’s clear characterisation, and the sudden dampening of Natalie Imbruglio’s happily excitable Nikki when she finds her old idol destroying her life. Edward Bennett brings a fine suavity to Hamish, in his curt responses to Barbara’s hostility and his confident misreading of the developing action.

Laurence Boswell’s revival is often funny, without underplaying the seriousness which is Ayckbourn’s particular quality. In one of his few plays not written to be acted with audience all-round, Ayckbourn ensures the piece needs a proscenium stage, while showing how little we know of lives around our own compartment, in the split-level structure caught by designer Giles Cade, though with slightly too little apparent of Gilbert’s basement.

And the interestingly-designed poster shows the characters interlinked in the manner of Ayckbourn’s 2004 tales of love and loneliness winding through Private Fears in Public Places.

Barbara: Claire Price.
Gilbert: Simon Gregor.
Nikki: Natalie Imbruglia.
Hamish: Edward Bennett.

Director: Laurence Boswell.
Designer: Giles Cadle.
Lighting: Bem Ormerod.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Composer: Jon Nicholls.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Rosy Banham.

19-24 May 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651
26-31 May 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm New Victoria Theatre Woking 0844 871 7645
9-14 June 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Churchill Theatre Bromley 0844 871 7620
16-21 June 7.30pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0844 811 2121

2014-05-20 15:36:05

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