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My Wonderful Day (tour – Cambridge)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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It would be difficult to think of a better actress in the part than Ayesha Antoine as Winnie in Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day. As the nine- year-old writing a homework essay in a smart London house while her heavily-pregnant mother Laverne gets on with the Tates’ housework, she communicates a child’s view of the daftness of adults through every shrug of the shoulders, twitch of the toes and above all through superbly expressive eyes.

Her mother apart, all the adults with whom she comes into contact alternatively ignore, patronise and misunderstand her. They’re not a particularly likeable bunch in any case. There’s Kevin, jealous of his wife Paula’s successes as a television director while himself promoting a rather seedy shopping mall cum leisure park. His business associate is Josh, coping with a handover, a disaster at work and a fractured marriage which largely separates him from his daughter. Tiffany has caught Kevin’s eye and is the person closest to Winnie's own age, so might seem to be the one to establish the greatest rapport with her. But they have very different values.

Paula is an outspoken whirlwind, though her professionalism crumbles under pressure. The author directs (not always the best option) and this may account for a certain sag halfway through – roughly where an interval might come in another play. You should be aware that My Wonderful Day runs for nearly two hours without a break. Roger Glossop’s setting is a matter of dark shutters and dark furniture with the shift between the rooms and  passages cleverly indicated by Mick Hughes lighting .

The other actors have to work hard to measure up to Antoine’s standard. Petra Letang is a cheerfully upbeat Laverne, schooling her daughter in the French they will both need when they visit the older family members who still live on Martinique, and awaiting her new baby with a pleasure unmitigated by her strayed husband. Alexandra Mathie presents the dynamism of career-woman Paula with just a hint of the vulnerable humanity it has largely supplanted. Tiffany is a flame-haired flutter in a tight top and short skirt; you know she is going to lose out all round from Ruth Gibson’s first entrance.

Neither of the men is particularly attractive as characters, let along admirable. Paul Kemp is a rough-hewn Josh, at sea alike with genuine emotion and work obligations. Terence Booth’s Kevin is a nasty piece of self-centred work who has managed to twist himself into a god-like status in which only himself has any belief. The curtain calls are taken in character and it’s a nice touch that – while the other actors show that they are on Winnie’s side – Booth still plays the would-be puppet master. Of course, he’s never had control of the strings at all.

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