Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: Relatively Speaking is Five Stars at the Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 22 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 22 Feb, 2023

By Ferenc Hepp

Alan Ayckbourn needs no introduction, with a hugely successful career as a playwright and director, lasting over six decades. Relatively Speaking was his first major hit in 1965 when he was still not so well known.

And this five star comedy is traditional Ayckbourn. It is not a play where you need to dig deep to find a message or endlessly analyse its themes.

Relatively Speaking by Alan Ayckbourn at the Yvonne Arnaud. Steven Pacey as Philip, Olivia Le Andersen as Ginny and Anthony Eden as Greg. Photos byTristram Kenton.

It is just pure comedy where you can sit back and enjoy a couple of hours of escapism and have a good laugh.

The 2023 tour is produced by Theatre Royal Bath and that is where it started its journey in January before making its way as far north as Aberdeen, down to the South Coast in Eastbourne, and moving onto Malvern after Guildford this week.

It is directed by Robin Herford, with set and costume design by Peter Mckintosh.

Relatively Speaking with Liza Goddard as Shelia and Antony Eden as Greg. Photos by Tristram Kenton.

The cast of four is made up of two couples. We start in London, in Ginny’s flat, where Greg stayed the night and Ginny is getting ready to visit her parents.

Olivia Le Andersen as Ginny and Antony Eden as Greg both seem to be a normal couple, happy, and preparing for a life together, despite some unexplained items in her flat, such as a large number of flowers, a pair of slippers that don’t seem to belong to anyone, and numerous heart shaped chocolate boxes.

Relatively Speaking with Antony Eden. Photos by Tristram Kenton

Eden’s sarcastic suspicion comes across well. We want to believe that there is absolutely nothing untoward happening due to how Ginny brushes off all of Greg’s queries.

Le Andersen portrays a happy, easy going character. There is great chemistry between the two. We almost believe that there is nothing suspicious going on but that would make for a very short and boring play!

Following the departure of the young couple, where Greg decides to follow Ginny to an address on a cigarette packet, the scene is changed in a rather low tech manner by some of the backstage crew, not using any revolve or machinery.

Relatively Speaking at the Yvonne arnaud. Photos by Tristram Kenton.

All credit must go to stage management as this is done very smoothly and efficiently, ending up with the whole set being turned round to reveal the garden of The Willows which is the setting of the rest of the action.

It is Sunday lunchtime and we find Sheila (Liza Goddard) and Philip (Steven Pacey) relaxing in the garden in a very English setting.

Sheila and Philip seem to have the perfect life. However, we start to see some gentle questioning between the two about a business trip which he wants to go to on his own and some unexplained letters which she receives regularly on Sundays.

The arrival of Greg, then Ginny just before the interval, is where the the humour of the piece really starts to take momentum, caused by mistaken identities and the hilarious interaction between the four characters.

Herford’s clever direction, Goddard’s naivity and polite confusion, and Pacey’s reaction to the news not quite fully explained by Eden combines perfectly to warrant the laughs this act attracts.

The connection between the older and younger couple is gradually unravelled. We find out that Philip and Sheila are not Ginny’s parents but the truth is not all revealed at the same time. This adds to the tension and the humour equally.

All four characters interact very differently with each other and this cast provide that distinction with accuracy and brilliant comic timing.

I agree with comments I overheard from the exiting audience: “very good… acting was very good… excellent”.

Relatively Speaking runs until Saturday, February 25 and tickets are available via online here or you can call the box office on 01483 440000.

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Responses to Stage Dragon Review: Relatively Speaking is Five Stars at the Yvonne Arnaud

  1. Anthony Mallard Reply

    February 23, 2023 at 9:20 am

    My wife and I went to Relatively Speaking last evening. It was brilliant, the best performance ever.

    We had both seen it years before but so enjoyed it we wanted to see it again and if it had stood the test of time.

    The actors were well cast in their roles, the interaction great and the timing superb. It was a fantastic evening and one we shall recall with enormous pleasure.

    One other comment. Thank you Yvonne Arnold theatre for installing hand rails on the stairs in the auditorium. Getting to one’s seat as a disabled person is now so very much safer.

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