So far, so familiar. By this point in the sequence we feel that we know all four characters very well. But Ayckbourn has some surprises for us. That pageant of the title concerns the Iceni queen Boudica (or Bonduca, or Boadicea if you prefer), one of Colchester's heroines – or anti-heroines. Toby, roped in unwillingly as director, has apparently double-cast the role. To say that this leads to a cat-fight is to understate the rumpus which ensues.
Sylvie in Ruth Gibson portrayal has hidden depths, not to say aspirations. Gibson contrasts her with a Celia who is rather less gentle and nice than in previous incarnations. Lionel retains his bombastic approach to work and to people while Gwynfor Evans gives has-been Toby a far more sympathetic edge than was allowed to appear hitherto. Robin Herford's direction paces the unfolding dramas cleverly.
The scenes where
characters offstage indulge in conversation with each other come
thick, fast and increasingly hilariously – especially once we
arrive at the field where the pageant is to be played out and
Lionel's stage acquires a life all of its own. Designer Michael
Holt has fun with this and with the gentle soundscape of birdsong
and country noises devised by Adam P McCready, the latter
punctuated by hammering and other noises-off.