In his 74th play Alan Ayckbourn sees no need to do things the easy way. Who else, working on a limited in-the-round space, would demand a set of a farmyard and three gardens (superbly designed by Michael Holt) and then use it with effortless flexibility? Then there’s the main character: George Riley of Life of Riley disrupts the lives of six people, but never actually appears!
Any Ayckbourn play is certain to be ingenious and witty and infused with an appealing mixture of warmth and cynicism. So it is with Life of Riley, but this is one of Sir Alan’s modest successes, not one of his major triumphs. The pace sometimes slackens and the wheels that drive the plot are more apparent than in the finest Ayckbourn.
Local GP Colin accidentally reveals that charming, but feckless, schoolteacher George Riley is dying of cancer. As the local dramatic society rehearse Ayckbourn’s own Relatively Speaking, George joins the cast and spreads emotional mayhem among the already fragile marital relationships.
A well-matched ensemble of six actors includes Scarborough regulars Laura Doddington and Liza Goddard, both pitching their performances with typical precision, and Kim Wall, beautifully droll as the amiable doctor puzzled by the strange ways of humans.