Do you really know your work colleagues? Ever wonder what goes on behind closed doors? What if the plain looking stranger you see on the bus everyday leads a double life? Alan Ayckbourn's 2004 play follows the lives of six people who seem fairly ordinary. But the writer throws light on the most minute aspects of these humdrum existences which equals compelling entertainment for the audience.
Dan (Robert Perkins) and his partner Nicola (Imogen Slaughter) are seeking a flat which houses a study. So far so middle class, but beneath the cut glass accents lie fear and loneliness. Estate agent, Stewart (Leigh Symonds) lives with his sister Imogen (Alice James). Both of them seem to be on a treadmill, longing to get off but too afraid to do so. Charlotte (Olwen May) works with Stewart and is also a part time carer. She always seems to be in control. But what lies beneath her prim and proper exterior?
This fascinating character study is given real light and shade by a superb team of actors. Perkins highlights the crossroads an ex-soldier faces when he/she re-enters society. Slaughter shoulders this pain wonderfully well.
Symonds and James relish the comic situations and also manage to evoke a sense of 'what if' throughout. May does what she can with a difficult role and even manages to make her underwritten character very believable in an absurd situation. Malcolm James provides the piece with its melancholy edge as a son who has lived his life for his parents.
Like Mike Leigh and Harold Pinter Ayckbourn presents an audience with mirror images of society. At times the emphasis on middle class jokes and situations does grate slightly as the piece feels slightly dated in its approach. But the performers rise above this minor flaw, breathing life into the sometimes stereotypical situations with glee.
Director Chris Honer has crafted a production which has real pace and style in abundance. Judith Croft's delightful hotel bar style set evokes the feeling of these characters 'passing through' incredibly well.
The audience on the night I went laughed, smiled and admired the wit on show. Gentle though the humour may be, it still retains an edge which you do not often see done as seamlessly as this.