‘Relatively Speaking’ by Sir Alan Ayckbourn is not his usual farce genre, but an intricate, droll comedy about confusion. Written in 1965, this play was originally called ‘I Meet My Father’, and was Ayckbourn’s first major success.
This 2-hour, rib tickler can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford each Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at 8.00, until Saturday 5th August. There is a matinée on two Sundays, 23rd and 30th July at 2.00 pm.
The scene is the flower power era, in the mid-1960s.
The first setting is Ginny’s one room flat in London. The pink painted room, littered with colourful miniskirts and garments of the era (costumes by Grannie Friel). Above the narrow double bed is a Beatles poster. The storage is in Terence Conran baskets in wooden frames – all the craze at the time. A small dining table and chairs at the side.
The second scene is the patio of a wealthy house in the Buckinghamshire countryside. A red trelliswork surrounds the white brickwork and the double patio doors. The garden furniture is ornate, white metal. There are many real plants and a white, garden bench. A MOST imposing set. We were warned there would be a couple of minutes break between Act One scene 1 and scene 2, but even so, my jaw dropped when the curtains opened for scene 2. The set change was massive. The outdoor set was completely different, and fully furnished with some great props. Clever design by Alistair Woodcock and his construction team Roy Phillips and Louse Konscek.
On such a small stage, the planning and speedy efficiency of the stage team of Karen Woodcock, and her assistants Gary Crouch and Teresa Charles, was outstanding.
Smooth teching by Edi Boross on both sound and lights.
The bedside telephone rings. Handsome, but a little bit dim, Greg (Rhett Clarke) wakes and answers the ‘phone, but the caller immediately hangs up. Greg has been staying the night with his new vivacious girlfriend, Ginny (Jennifer McGrath). Soon, various happenings make him suspect that he may actually be one of many men in her life.
Ginny says she is going to visit her parents in the country, but whilst she is dressing, Greg finds a card with her parents’ Lower Pendon address on it. Wishing to ask her father for her hand in marriage, he decides to secretly catch the same train as Ginny, and meet with her folks.
Meanwhile in Lower Pendon, Philip (Rodney van Groningen) is hoeing the garden whilst his wife, Sheila (Michele Acott) is making the lunch. Sparkly Sheila is rushing around the kitchen, and seems extra keen to get to her friend’s house alone. Jealous Philip suspects that the friend she is meeting may actually be her fancy man.
Then, when the two youngsters arrive, the hilarious pandemonium begins.
The first Act, especially Scene 1, appears a little slow, but this is the devious playwright carefully setting the scene for the colossal confusion that is about to take place in Act 2.
Experienced Director, Ken Harris has selected an unusual mix of actors, but this is exactly what is called for in the script, as both sets of couples are polar opposites.
Actors normally have a smoothly written script that is designed to feed the next line to the ensuing actor. However, in this play, because of the confusion, the performers will have had a much more difficult task in learning their lines. Although the audience were laughing at the misunderstandings, the actors just had to carry on undaunted. Greg just smiled and looked naïve, whilst Ginny’s mind was ever active, searching for excuses. Sheila has a bright, bubbly personality, but Philip is uneasy at the uncomfortable circumstances. Each actor nailed their part, great teamwork, and subtly directed.
This production is one of Garrick’s fastest selling. I had to return a second night in order to get a seat, so please book with TAZ tickets to avoid disappointment.
This not a farce but a cleverly written comedy script, beautifully presented.