Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Ayckbourn’s Double Bill At The Arnaud

Published on: 16 Jan, 2016
Updated on: 16 Jan, 2016

By Ferenc Hepp

Now that panto season is well and truly over, The Yvonne Arnaud is back to more adult programming, although the current double bill of Alan Ayckbourn’s Confusions and Hero’s Welcome should appeal to a wide variety of ages.

© Tony Bartholomew 07802 400651/ PICTURE COPYRIGHT TONY BARTHOLOMEW ALL PICTURES SUPPLIED TO THE STEPHEN JOSEPH THEATRE FOR USE IN PRESS,PUBLICITY FOR THIS PRODUCTION AND FOR USE ON ALL IN HOUSE PUBLICATIONS AND WEBSITES. Stephen Billington as Stewart in Confusions written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough from 9th July - 26th September.

Stephen Billington as Stewart in Confusions written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn. © Tony Bartholomew.

On Thursday night it was the turn of the first major revival of his comedy, Confusions, written in 1974 and only directed for the second time by its author. This in fact is a collection of five short one-act plays, connected by similar characters, locations and themes.

The first play is Mother Figure, where we meet three out of the five actors who take part in the play and the comedy stems from the mother of the house ‘entertaining’ the couple who live next door and treating them just the same way she would treat her young children, as well as being so busy that she ignores all her husband’s telephone calls. A simple idea which does not deviate or get much more complex than that but made us laugh and was a good start to warm us up for the rest of the evening.

The second play, Drinking Companion, could well reflect what the husband might be up to while working away and staying in a hotel and in the company of some attractive young ladies, however, his behaviour couldn’t be further from what he says: “I respect you as ladies”. There is a very funny twist at the end of this story, involving the rather camp waiter, portrayed brilliantly by Stephen Billington.

The first half draws to a close with Between Mouthfuls, set in a restaurant, which concentrates on the relationship between two couples, as well as the return of our waiter from the previous play and introduces Russell Dixon as Mr Pearce, a very believable CEO of a company who struggles to dine in peace thanks to his demanding wife and thanks to getting rather frustrated with the ever suffering waiter.

The second half offers two very contrasting plays, Gosforth’s Fete, which is very much in the form of a farce with lots of physical as well as verbal humour set in a very English village fete, and A Talk in the Park, which is much more static, with the comedy purely originating from the words and the movement of the various characters between four benches.

This play is a great showcase for five actors playing 20 characters between them and I felt that all five in this production were cast very well and portrayed each of their roles with lots of humour and good observation.

Stephen Billington especially made me laugh as the waiter and Richard Stacey was very believable as the chauvinistic male figure in the first half.

The design by Michael Holt is simple but effective and the scene changes were very well choreographed and occasionally did take a little while, but they were essential and we did have the pleasure of some 1970-s ‘lift music’ to get us through them. In fact, they are a mini-performance themselves in between the plays. As a member of the audience commented after the show, it’s “very clever”!

Confusions runs at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, (in rep with Hero’s Welcome), until Saturday, January 23, and tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

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