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A Cricket Match (tour - Stevenage, Gordon Craig Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Intimate Exchanges is one of those tricksy Ayckbourn offerings where two actors play all the parts and there's a fistful of possible outcomes, not to mention themes. A Cricket Match presents us with two marriages heading for the rocks. Toby is a prep school headmaster more given to the bottle than to the blackboard. His wife Celia is suffering in modified silence.

Miles is the businessman chair of the board of governors. He's dithering about whether or not to support Toby, who is an old school friend, as well as whether he prefers Celia to his rackety wife Rowena. Rowena herself is a free spirit, quite content to let the men get on with it – whatever that might be. Then there's the school groundsman, a man who can wreck a cricket-pitch faster than a spin bowler. And Celia's mother also drops by.

As with nearly every other Ayckbourn play, the comedy is wrapped around some shrewd analysis of male-female relationships, especially within wedlock. Both Jenny Funnell and Stephen Beckett are seasoned Ayckbourn actors and know precisely how to balance the mixture of wince and laughs. Patric Kearns directs with a light touch, giving his players room to build their gallery of characters. The World Awake set transforms easily between the three locations and offers the semi-realism which the play demands.


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