Writer: Alan Ayckbourn
Director: Laurence Boswell
Reviewer: Helen Jones
Things We Do For Love is one of very few Alan Ayckbourn plays written to be performed specifically for an end stage, set as it is over three floors of a house which has been turned into flats. The time is October 1996 and we are in Fulham, London. Barbara lives in the middle flat of the house she was brought up in. Her tenant in the basement flat is Gilbert, a postman and ever helpful handyman neighbour. The upstairs flat is empty but she is about to rent it short term to her old school friend Nikki and Nikki’s fiancé Hamish.
But the relationship between Barbara and Nikki is complex, a case of hero-worship has never been outgrown, and the friendship is unbalanced. Barbara is a single, self-controlled woman where as Nikki confesses that she cannot be without a man. Barbara is intolerant of many things and she and Hamish clash in many ways. But with all Ayckbourn plays, things are never quite that simple and straightforward. The play is set over barely a two week period, but it is two weeks that will change the lives of the people involved forever.
Claire Price is excellent as the uptight Barbara, from mannerisms through to her obsession with the cushions being plumped up, she creates a realistic and rounded character. Simon Gregor as her neighbour Gilbert works hard to create a character which is more than a parody, unfortunately despite his efforts and physical prowess at slapstick, Gilbert is no more than a comedy sideline to the plot.
Edward Bennett is also excellent as Hamish. Initially irritated by Barbara and her opinions, he shows the changes and turmoil in his actions and emotions with great control, managing to appear unwilling yet eager at the same time. Natalie Imbruglia makes her stage debut as the wimpish Nikki. She does not disappoint, giving the emotional performance needed for the rôle to gain any sympathy.
Designer Giles Cadie creates a effective and evocative set, the principal section being the living room of Barbara’s flat with only the ceiling area of Gilbert’s basement flat and the bottom two feet of the upstairs flat being visible. Director Laurence Boswell uses the set well while allowing Alan Ayckbourn’s witty writing to lead the action. He makes clever use of the limited vision of the upper and lower flats while not deviating from the nineties feel of the whole piece.
Things We Do For Love isn’t Ayckbourn’s finest play, but is a clever and witty observation on certain aspects of life and as such is well worth watching.
Runs until Sat 7th June 2014