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Relatively Speaking (tour - Cambridge, Arts Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Ayckbourn’s first West End success came in 1967 with Relatively Speaking. This touring production by Lindsay Posner is set firmly in 1965 – that era at once more settled and more radical than 21st century hindsight occasionally gives it credit for being. The drop curtain shows a pre-M25 map of the home counties, though I did wonder, during the scene-shifting break, at the route which Ginny’s train was taking to Buckinghamshire.

The first couple we meet is the young one, on a Sunday morning following a night in Ginny’s single bed. Peter McKintosh’s set for the furnished London flat is spot on for the period, as is Kara Tointon’s Vidal Sassoon haircut and Mary Quant-inspired dress and shiny coat. Tointon has a tendency to sound shrill, not to say raucous, but that suits Ginny’s girl-about-Carnaby Street persona well enough.

Her new boyfriend Greg is a little more naïve in Max Bennett’s portrait. He may have spent the night in the buff but carefully wraps a towel around him before going to the window; the strategically held bunches of flowers which shield his manly attributes are a nice touch. As we discover when he follows Ginny on her Sunday trip to the country, he’s only just settling down to the hard graft of actually earning his living.

Philip and his wife Sheila are actor-proof roles. Jonathan Coy produces enough of the bully to make you feel that wife and secretary-girlfriend both may yet have a lucky escape.Felicity Kendal twitters to the manor born as Sheila; handling all the wrong ends of sticks which come her way with just the right mix of courteous wooliness.

Again, the set for what were originally the second and third acts gives time and place its proper context. What’s on view is immaculate; what’s hidden in the human undergrowth is perhaps – like Philip’s vegetable garden – has a lethal mixture of nettles and bindweed.


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