Relatively Speaking

Posted by Laurence Green

Laurence Green sees immensely enjoyable reworking of Alan Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking at Wyndham's Theatre

Relatively SpeakingIt is not very often that a 46-year-old play emerges today as fresh and funny as when it was first staged but this is indeed the case with Lindsay Posner’s excellent new production of Alan Ayckbourn’s first play to become a West End hit, namely Relatively Speaking (Wyndham's Theatre).

Greg, only met Ginny a month ago but has already made up his mind that she’s the girl for him. When she tells him that she’s going to visit her parents, he decides this is the moment to ask her father for his daughter’s hand. Discovering a scribbled address, he follows her to Buckinghamshire where he finds Philip and Sheila enjoying a peaceful Sunday morning breakfast in the garden. But the only thing is – they’re not Ginny’s parents!

It is surprising that this is the first West End revival of Ayckbourn’s play since its premiere in 1967 and, apart from being a perceptive comedy about love, infatuation and deception, is also tinged with a touch of the playwright’s characteristic darkness. However, although lighter in texture than many of the 70 or so plays Ayckbourn has written, it contains a fascinating insight into the middle-class marital angst that was to become his speciality. Even in this early piece, though, Ayckbourn shows how a prolonged misunderstanding can become a source of painful truth.

Set designer Peter Mckintosh evocative capture the poky, down-at-heel Sixties London flat adorned with posters of Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Goldfinger where the action begins and the sunlit suburban garden occupied by the couple’s astonished hosts.

But it is the impeccable performances that make this production so beguiling. Max Bennett effortlessly conveys the gawkiness and naivety of the innocent abroad as Greg while also revealing an engaging comic side. Kara Tointon, formerly of East Enders and Strictly Come Dancing, manages to be both sexy and devious as Ginny the woman he loves, and Jonathan Coy is an expertly blustering Philip. Best of all, though, is Felicity Kendal, looking younger than ever and displaying sharp timing, as the confused, good-natured Sheila, suddenly greeted by a young man who wants to marry a daughter she didn’t know she had.

This, then, is an immensely enjoyable production that has all the ingredients of a perfect night out in the West End theatre!

Relatively Speaking runs until August 31 at Wyndham's Theatre

Box office: 0844 482 5120

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