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Surprises (Bath - tour)

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Alan Ayckbourn's 76th play presents a gadgety future where people are pretty much like they are today. A teenager argues with her dad about a boy. Dad, being wealthy and seemingly without scruples, tries to buy the boy off. But this being the future, the boy has a hand in the invention of time-travel, and so the path of true love will still never run smooth.

Even in the future, people's most "human" trait, Ayckborn seems to say, is their inconsistency, particularly, he makes explicit, in the female of the species. And in a world where medical science has stretched longevity to obscene lengths, the nuptial pledge of love everlasting is glaringly at odds with this human inconsistency.

This is "template Ayckborn" - people are inherently ridiculous - with futuristic devices flung in to queer the dramatic pitch. Culture and attitude do not change in Ayckborn's brave new world; even when middle aged women marry robots or still look 17 (while the men - even the robot ones - get frustrated with them).

It's a good ensemble cast, ploughing through, although special mention must go to Sarah Parks as Lorraine, Laura Doddington as Sylvia and Richard Stacey as Jan the android whose humanity is seen as a technical problem. Their performances offer the best glimmers of this world’s deeper questions, that would otherwise go unasked.


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