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GamePlan (Damsels in Distress)

By • West End
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Note: The following review dates from June 2001 and this production's run at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.

Gameplan is Alan Ayckbourn's 58th play, followed by Flatspin and RolePlay.

While all three are presented under a Damsels In Distress umbrella, the plays are otherwise entirely separate entities. However, they do share the same cast of seven, Roger Glossop's clean, crisp and modern London Docklands' apartment set and, of course, a rather famous writer and director.

What would you do if your mother's business collapsed and your lifestyle was rapidly dwindling? If you were anything like teenage daughter Sorrel Saxon (Saskia Butler) the option is an easy one - you assume the name Randy Mandy, set up an internet site advertising your wares as prostitute, enlist your dizzy and naïve friend Kelly (Alison Pargeter) as a Madame and wait for the 'phone to ring. It is only when that first client turns up (Leo, played by the burly Robert Austin) that anything resembling regret begins to materialise.

By then, of course, it is too late and life in the apartment rapidly becomes as complex as everything does in Ayckbourn-land. When Leo collapses, post-coitus, things get really confusing. Sorrel and Kelly have to dispose of the body without mum, or the police, working out what has really gone on in the riverside apartment.

The cast is a fine ensemble. Pargeter is a young Julie Walters, shaking away nervously as she deals with Leo, who turns up with a bunch of flowers. "Put these somewhere," he says. To which Pargeter's character, assuming the man has some strange horticultural perversion, responds nervously, "I'm only the maid."

Butler is a confident talent, while Jacqueline King, as mother Lynette, does a great line in comedy coughing. The play also features the talents of Tim Faraday, Beth Tuckey and recent SJT regular Bill Champion.

Gameplan is a well-crafted piece of hilarity. In the past Ayckbourn has written some exceptional parts for women and really climbed inside the female mind. He's done it again here, while at the same time exploring mother-daughter relationships and revealing that we will do almost anything if we consider the ends to justify the means.

- Dave Windass


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