Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Relatively Speaking review

Published in The Irish World newspaper 19/06/13

Alan Ayckbourn’s 1967 play “Relatively Speaking” made him a household name in theatrical circles after its initial success in the Westend. As it swings back into action again in London’s Wyndham theatre, Leah Quinn went along to see if it could work its magic on a modern audience as well.


As quintessentially English as crumpets and cricket, this outandish 60’s comedy embodies all that is sustaining a stiff upper lip in the face of scandal and deceit. However, eventhough the play deals with the issue of doubt in relationships, it is very much a comedy at heart.


The play centres around a young couple Jinny, played by Kara Tointon an actress with Irish roots who many might know from Eastenders, and Greg played by Max Bennett. It opens with the two young lovebirds waking up in Jinny’s London bedsit. Their conversation quickly turns to marriage and Greg expresses his enthusiasm for accompanying Jinny to visit her parents at the weekend. When Jinny shoots down the idea Greg decides to follow her anyway and when he mistakes the wrong couple for her mother and father hilarity and mistaken identity mayhem erupt. The play and characters seem to be holding so many secrets from each other and the audience that for a large part of the production there is no telling who is lying and who is the victim of those lies.


Kara Tointon played Jinny with an endearing quality which seemed to work well on stage, however Max Bennett slightly outshined her with his Frank Spencer approach to his character. But it was Felicity Kendall who was the star of the whole production. She played Sheila, the wife in the older couple and her brilliant one liners and comedic timing had the audience in tears of laughter more than once. Kendall is best known for her part as Barbara in the popular 1970’s sitcom The Good Life.


It has been 46 years since this play was first staged and it would be very easy for it to fall flat in today’s more critical and demanding world of theatre, however for the most part many of the jokes still worked and did not seem to have worn weak with time. It does however take a while to find its feet as the first couple of scenes all feel a bit like a soap opera with less gags and more general chitchat. All in all it makes for a very safe bet if you fancy some light theatrical comedy and will most likely tickle the funny bones of anyone who enjoys traditional slapstick British comedy such as Some Mother Do ave’ em and Faulty Towers.

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