Live stream - 12th November 2020
Cracking theatre from a classy company.
I did something very strange last week but, after all, it is a strange year. I went to the theatre or, more to the point, the theatre came to me. Company of Ten live streamed their latest audience denied production and, being an Alan Ayckbourn, I decided to tune in. With a little help from someone far more techno savvy than me. Live streaming, a phrase that would have been alien in 2019 trips off the tongue in virus torn 2020. You watch an old fashioned but incredibly clever and funny play from the 1960s via your modern state of the art tablet, and studiously watch the actors socially distance their complex mask free parts. It’s a funny old world at the moment but at least you escape parking charges, petrol costs, and oodles of ice creams for your friends. And the drinks from the bar are free. Or that is what I tell myself.
I missed the first bit of the first scene of Relatively Speaking but knowing the play well it did not matter. Besides, set in Ginny and Greg’s London flat it is merely there to set up the delicious confusions that follow when the action moves to leafy Buckinghamshire. I shan’t regale you with the plot, I would be here all day, other than to say that Greg thinking that Ginny’s middle aged lover is her father leads to tortuously comic misunderstandings in spades. It is a rich seam which Ayckbourn mines beautifully with logical precision. You never for a moment think that one word or one line could explain all. Hence the play’s continuing charm.
Director Angela Stone had a cracking cast. Ben Cammack was an engagingly geeky Greg and Emma Barry, far too common for a Buckinghamshire family, a feisty Ginny. Both played their parts with super pace and delivery. But the stars of this, and all productions of the play I have seen or heard, were the so called ‘parents’ Philip and Sheila. When Philip, thinking that Sheila is Greg’s lover rather than Ginny, learns of a thirty year older man in her life he assumes he must be eighty. It was a delightful comic piece, both in delivery and reactions. And Sheila innocently questioning her so called ‘daughter’ Ginny about how she was brought up and where she lives was exquisite in timing and responses. Suzie Major and Russell Vincent, acting talents I have seen before, both bring exceptional skills to their rich parts even if, as I said earlier, I really should not try to explain the plot.
The play was excellently directed and staged by Angela Stone on Judith Goodban’s impressive patio garden set and, thankfully, the camera operators were not too intrusive. All in all a classy production from a company I have regularly admired. More so in these current challenging times. I only went to my private bar once, and that was in the interval, and if there are not many laughs in this semi-serious blog I assure they were in abundance at the Abbey. A reminder, think Rosemary Leach, Celia Johnson, and the Michaels, Hordern and Aldridge et al, of what we are all missing. Many, many, thanks, Ten.