Grand Theatre, Leeds – 30th August 2017
In 1967, when Relatively Speaking first played to audiences, it opened to a roar of approval from the critics, and the first offering of now acclaimed playwright Alan Ayckbourn set him on the path to success. Now, 49 years later, the comedy is on tour, offering a night of hilarity that is still relevant and completely charming today.
The script is ingeniously strung out from a rather threadbare premise. Two couples, both with infidelity problems, meet and talk at cross-purposes for an afternoon. The action opens in a dingy London bedsit where fun-loving Ginny (Lindsey Campbell) is entwined with a nice-but-dim Greg (Antony Eden) who wants to marry her. But Ginny plans to spend the day with her older lover in Buckinghamshire. Ginny misses the first train but Greg catches it and arrives at The Willows first. Greeted by a Philip (Robert Powell) whom he wrongly assumes is Ginny’s dad. Philip, meanwhile, assumes that Greg is his wife Sheila’s (Liza Goddard) bit on the side.
The first scene, in the London flat, is intermably long and apart from a single pink sheet, not overly funny. My heart sank as I was expecting hilarity and was receiving something more painful than heart burn. But, after watching, the map light up to follow the train for an epic scene change, we arrived in an English country garden and laughs a plenty followed.
Liza Goddard is a delight as the confused, good-natured Sheila, suddenly greeted by a boy who wants to marry a daughter she didn’t know she had, but also hints at the pain of a woman who knows that her husband is unfaithful. Robert Powell is all self-righteous, pink-faced indignation as her philandering husband. Antony Eden memorably captures the confusion of the gawky young innocent abroad, while Lindsey Campbell is both sexy and devious as the woman he loves.
The set itself, does need a special mention, the dingy London bedsit flat is just grungy and threadbare enough but the country house is magnificent and Peter McKintosh’s design is to be congratulated.
In Leeds until Saturday 3rd September and on tour around the country