Nobody does the dark
and light nuances of human relationships quite as Ayckbourn manages
it. Take A One Man Protest, the second of the
quartet from the eight-play Intimate Exchanges
sequence which has just joined the Mercury Theatre's repertoire. This
highlights the disintegrating marriage of Miles and Rowena with
Miles' colleague Toby, Toby's wife Celia, teenage home-help Sylvie
and groundsman Lionel fluttering around its edges.
All six parts are
played by two actors. Both Ruth Gibson and Gwynfor Jones have by
now sifted themselves deep within their allotted trio of roles.
Gibson reveals Rowena as a hippie free spirit whose teasing drifts
into something more dangerous. Jones offers us a man who is on the
surface a reasonable, caring human-being but who can (and does) tip over
the edge when other people drive him to it.
Sylvie is another
tease; Celia would – could – be one, but is too distracted by her
own problems to offer more than superficial help. Toby is a man
cocooned in his own self-sufficiency (for which read
self-importance). Lionel is another man around whom any halfway
intelligent woman is going to run the proverbial rings. Director
Robin Herford has their measure, abetted by Michael Holt's set
and some intriguing sound effects by Adam P McCready.
The protest of the
title takes place in a garden shed, that repository for things (and
people) no longer really needed to be in the house. We see an
exploded view of it in the second scene, which is the heart of the
play. What happens there leads on to churchyard encounters at that
loneliest time of year for those not secure within a family circle –
Christmas. What else will happen? You'll have to book your seats for
A Pageant and A Game of Golf to
find out. And even then, you may not feel that you've see it all...