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Relatively Speaking – Milton Keynes Theatre

Writer: Alan Ayckbourn

Director: Lindsay Posner

Reviewer: Maggie Constable


TIt was Relatively Speaking in London’s West End in 1967 that made Alan Ayckbourn’s name and gave him his first hit play. He has since become a darling of British theatre, very much a household favourite on TV too. This evening in Milton Keynes Theatre the reworked piece begins its tour of the provinces before it returns to London. It has been much anticipated, in some part due to the fact that it stars Felicity Kendal, the much loved Barbara from the TV sitcom The Good Life. Starring also is Jonathan Coy, who is well known to TV audiences, most recently for Downton Abbey.

So the story goes that Ginny and Greg have only met in the last month but this has not prevented the latter from believing that she is the one! Hence, when Greg is informed by Ginny that she plans to visit her parents in Bucks he makes the momentous decision that he will use the occasion to ask her father for his permission to marry her. Greg then follows Ginny and, arriving in advance of Ginny, finds said parents (or so he believes), Sheila and Philip, sitting quietly breakfasting one Sunday morning in their garden. One slight problem, however………they are not Ginny’s parents…………..!

There ensues a tangled web of deceit, misunderstanding and more.

A play of three parts, there is a noticeable difference between each. Indeed, the first part is slow and somewhat laboured as it sets the scene. It is at times irksome rather than funny. There then ensues a fairly long pause, accompanied by music, while we are shown a map of London and its environs. During this scene change we are even treated to the sound of cows, presumably to tell us that they are in the country!

However, once the action is in situ in the Bucks house the pace, the script and the acting pick up and there are some well-delivered one-liners. As the misunderstandings and deceit increase and we are launched into the final part of the piece, there is laughter aplenty particularly leading up to the denouement, but no spoilers here.

Felicity Kendal as Sheila, the ditzy and somewhat beleaguered wife, is superb, giving her character some depth. She has not lost that ability to use her face and physical gestures to great comic effect and some good line delivery. She gets across the lost and confused wife really well. There are some grand dialogues between her and her bullish, philandering husband, Philip, performed with gusto by Jonathon Coy. He really does look at times as if he has lost his rag. Very convincing and often very funny.Kara Tointon plays Ginny with credibility for the most part, but can seem one-dimensional at times and is not so sharp in her comic delivery.Max Bennett in the rôle of Greg gives a very sound portrayal and has excellent comic timing. Whenever he is interacting with the other characters he adds a dynamic so that the comedy seems to work much better.

The set, designed by Peter McKintosh, perfectly describes the 60s era, as do the costume especially Ginny’s. Tres Mary Quant.

This is a play very much of its time, which touches some issues, but is essentially a fun farce of a show and should be taken as such. An enjoyable evening.

Runs until Sat 11May 2013

Picture: Catherine Ashmore


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