Events on a Hotel Terrace (Colchester, Mercury Theatre)
Director Robin Herford knows just how to pace Ayckbourn and he is fortunate in his two players. Ruth Gibson plays fragile headmaster's wife Celia, just about at the end of her tether as far as her marriage is concerned. Gwynfor Jones is whisky-addicted Toby, who's more or less given up on running his school, never really bothered to understand his wife – let alone modern society – and just wants to be left alone.
Celia's frustrations boil over just as she's forced to make decisions about the garden by school caretaker-cum-groundsman Lionel (Jones). Lionel has ambitions, though not much sense, and these apparently don't include home-help Sylvie (Gibson). As with so much Ayckbourn, there's a very fine line drawn between the credible and the preposterous; Michael Holt's semi-naturalistic set and quick-change costumes echo this properly.
You can sympathise with Gibson's Celia as she tries to juggle social and personal priorities, and also with young Sylvie – who knows what she wants but goes about getting it altogether in the wrong way. Jones contrasts Toby (a fine example of male chauvinist piggery) with aspirational over-the-top Lionel to comic effect and, in the last scene, introduces us to Miles – the businessman chair of the school's board of governors. It definitely leaves the audience wanting to see what will happen next.