Forty years ago Alan Ayckbourn was commissioned to write a play for the summer season at Scarborough’s Theatre-in-the-Round. His brief was simple, it could have no more than four in the cast, was to be funny and couldn’t cost more than £10!! The result was Relatively Speaking, which launched not just Ayckbourn’s career but also Richard Briers as an actor.
The Miller Centre Players have chosen to present this as the final play in their successful and creative 2009/2010 season. 40 years later does this play still offer us something funny?
Chris Butler’s wonderfully resourceful set, skilfully sets the first scene in Greg and Ginny’s small shabby London flat (in a perfect 1960′s style), we’re then whisked away (courtesy of the newly refurbished revolving stage) to Philip and Sheila’s country residence, this transformation is brilliant and shows the resourcefulness and skill of Chris Butler and the backstage team.
With such a small cast, the play hangs on each of their performances and each one delivered. Robin Clark acted the role of Greg, just right, his delivery and facial expressions were spot on. Kirsty Pannett, looked stylish in her sixties mini skirt and hair do – and as the culprit of why the characters are in their series of misunderstandings, wonderfully deals with each situation as it arose. John Lacy, was a great Philip, several of the biggest laughs were on his lines and reactions, and rightly so, they were delivered with just the right timing and tone. Suzi Whittle, as Shelia, reacted superbly to all the goings on as her home is invaded and delivered the last line with a fabulous twinkle in her eye. This cast understood that this play required the right rhythm and they worked well together to see this happened and the lines got the laughs they deserved.
So how does the play stand up 40+ years later? I really enjoyed it, as a fun evening of summer’s entertainment it was a pleasant and fun evening. On a deeper level Ayckbourn’s play is about the miscommunication that exists between people, and while in daily life it’s often not quite as funny as this, I found it an accurate observation. In an age of emails, mobile phones, blogs etc. It is still hard for us to communicate despite all these “communication mediums”, and yet tragically it’s often toughest to communicate to the people we’re closest too.