Review of Sunnybank Theatre's Relatively Speaking
By ERIC SCOTT
By Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Colin Robinson
Sunnybank Theatre Group
Corner Beenleigh and Mains Roads
Season February 13-28 Bookings: 07 3345 3964 or www.stg.org.au
PHOTOS: The young lovers - Nathaniel Young (Greg) and Bianca Butler Reynolds (Ginny).
Taking tea - Chris O’Leary (Phillip), Nathaniel Young, Bianca Butler Reynolds and Sally Jenkins (Sheila)
Confusion - Nathaniel Young, Chris O’Leary and Sally Jenkins.
Photos by Kaymar Kreations.
Take a pair of new lovers – Greg, a young innocent and Ginny a woman with a dubious past - who share
a small city flat, and pair them with a sophisticated English upper class married couple, Sheila and Phillip Carter who enjoy life in the country, and you have Ayckbourn’s recipe for total bewilderment.
Relatively Speaking was first
produced in 1965 and was Ayckbourn’s first commercial success.
It’s a twist-ridden plot, a tale of misunderstandings, mistaken identities, subterfuge, and lies that turns into a comedy with some side-splitting moments. It is also one which was obviously born in the UK during the swinging 60s. Couples living together out of wedlock had become trendy and women taking several lovers and having casual affairs with older married men quite the done thing.
Colin Robinson wisely played this 50-year-old play as a period piece and had the characters fit the time. The cast in general were up to the task of creating the often eccentric characters.
The action of the play is set in Greg’s dingy flat which is nicely decorated to period (there is even a print of Tretchikoff’s million seller green faced Chinese Woman stuck on the wall) and the patio of the Carter’s flower-bedecked country home.
Rather than have a composite set Sunnybank chose to have a pair of complete box sets and they switched locations extremely well with the minimum of fuss. There was a ripple of applause when the new set was revealed; it was quite a feat for the backstage crew.
The journey of disruption begins when Ginny, Greg’s love of just four weeks tells him she is off to the country to visit her parents. There have been some mysterious truncated phone calls, bunches of flowers and boxes of chocolate have been hidden around the flat and Ginny’s explanations are flimsy to say the least. Then there is a pair of slippers, which are under the bed and are definitely not Greg’s.
Greg gets suspicious, although he knows that “he is not Ginny’s first”. He proposes, and after a sort of acceptance from Ginny says he wants to come with her to meet her parents. Ginny’s horror is transparent as she creates some strange reasons for him to stay home.
She goes and Greg decided to follow.
And that is where the story really begins as Greg turns up to what he believes is Ginny parents’ home which in reality is the home of the older lover she is desperately trying to get rid of.
The opening scene tended to be a bit too intense and angry for a pair of new lovers, with Bianca Butler Reynolds’ Ginny a little too aggressive and Nathaniel Young’s Greg being rather too passive, but as soon as Greg meets up with Sheila the play improved immeasurably and laughs started to flow.
Sally Jenkins as the posh Sheila Carter is hilarious and she creates some marvellous facial expressions as she tries to make polite conversation with Greg the total stranger. She has great comic timing too and she was matched by the cheerful and garrulous Greg who chats happily about his impending marriage to who he thinks is Sheila’s daughter.
Then Greg meets Phillip played very nicely upper-crust and a little sleazy by Chris O’Leary. Again these scenes of confusion are well played and very funny.
At the end of Act One Ginny made her expected entrance and we all left for the bar before returning for more laughs and more unravelling of some outrageous lies and revelations of the past.
And the laughs did keep coming as the four characters slowly realised what was going on, and poor Greg being led nicely by the nose up the garden path.
It is a play that has aged well with some witty dialogue and hilarious situations and was well played at Sunnybank Theatre.