Say “time play”, and the average theatre-goer thinks of JB Priestley. Not necessarily of Alan Ayckbourn. So it helps to pay strict attention from even before the curtain rises on Communicating Doors in the playwright’s own production for the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and now on tour.
It was written and staged originally in 1994, but has been brought bang up to date. Once you have adjusted to the slightly surreal aspects of the comedy, you can relax a little to savour the author’s skill in timing, the wry comments on social aspirations and attitudes, and the excellence of the cast. But don’t relax or laugh too much – you might miss something important.
Liza Goddard is splendid as Ruella, the no-nonsense wife of Ben Porter’s Reece, a business-man with some dubious global practice and associates. Chief among these is Julian, to whom Ben Jones gives just the right quiet-spoken air which radiates a feline menace. Laura Doddington as the dominatrix Poopay has the audience on her side from her first entrance to her revelation of the person beneath the leather.
As the hotel porter Harold, Jamie Kenna gives a sharp-edged sketch of a man who in his times has dealt with most requests to the Regal’s clients’ satisfaction. Daisy Aitkens plays Jessica, a bride with an interesting future. Michael Holt’s set, showing us an apparently authentic suite in an upmarket hotel, is a character in the drama in its own right, with a windowscape to warn us that the whole action is liable to be off-kilter as well as the flexible portals of the title.