It seems to be a generally accepted fact nowadays that men don’t understand women and that women understand men all too well. Alan Ayckbourn’s If I Were You plays with this premise to fine effect, at any rate in the second half. This new touring production by Joe Harmston has its surreal moments as the marriage of Jill and Mal unravels and both their married daughter and teenage son have to cope with a degree of deliberate parental blindness.
Liza Goddard is excellent as Jill Rodale, her face and body language as expressive as her voice both as the put-upon wife and mother in the first act and when she takes on some of her husband’s characteristics in the second. Ayckbourn has always written with great credibility about women of a certain age and this four-year old comedy is no exception, as Goddard demonstrates. Jack Ellis as Mal comes into his own in the second act when his unpleasant insensitivities suddenly wash into feminine intuition and multi-tasking.
There are two levels and three locations in Simon Scullion’s set – bedroom, kitchen, living-room. Mark Howett’s lighting and Rob Langley’s sound effects indicate the shifts of action from one place to another and also to the department store where Mal and his son-in-law Dean work. It all requires the actors to scurry backstage as they exit from one side only to reappear on the other. Pauses do occur, not always at the right time.
As Sam, the schoolboy who neither father nor mother really understand, David Osmond fully earns his second-act round of applause as he rehearses the part of Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a neat portrait of someone balancing between childhood and young manhood. Laureen Drummond is a somewhat subdued Chrissie, coping with a husband whose masculine desire for dominance teeters on the edge of actual physical abuse; that a character is subdued doesn’t mean that her words should not be heard. Dean is the sort of person one is not meant to like, and Ayden Callaghan is duly unlikeable as him.